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'It's a big deal'

Six construction projects on schedule, communities to change

Posted: April 29, 2013 - 8:55pm  |  Updated: May 1, 2013 - 10:42am
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Work continues at the site of the new Dena'Ina Wellness Center  Monday April 29, 2013 Old Town Kenai, Alaska.  The center is scheduled to open in early 2014.     Rashah McChesney
Rashah McChesney
Work continues at the site of the new Dena'Ina Wellness Center Monday April 29, 2013 Old Town Kenai, Alaska. The center is scheduled to open in early 2014.

A number of construction projects — all touted as major additions to central Kenai Peninsula communities — have broken ground, and some are nearing completion on the Kenai Peninsula.

“It’s a huge economic stimulus, of course,” said Paul Ostrander, Kenai Peninsula Borough Chief of Staff.

In addition to a new Career and Tech Center and student housing under construction at Kenai Peninsula College, projects on the central Kenai Peninsula include Central Peninsula Hospital’s Radiation Oncology Center, Dena’ina Wellness Center, Sterling Community Center, Soldotna Library renovations, Nikiski’s new Senior Center, and Kenai Central High School’s field and track upgrades.

Ostrander said the influx of construction is a boost in job opportunities.

“You need people to build things, for construction,” Ostrander said.

He said the area’s construction is a result of the “significant capital budget” the state passed the past several years. But for the next few years, he said, it is unlikely the area will see such development, as he expects the state’s capital budget will be slimmer.

CPH's Radiation Oncology Center

The 6,200-square-foot Radiation Oncology Center construction is scheduled for completion in May, Ostrander said.

The center, located at Soldotna’s Central Peninsula Hospital, will be the first of its kind for the Peninsula, he said.

“It’s the first time folks will be able to get their cancer treatment here at home,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”

Prior to the cancer treatment center, Peninsula residents have had to drive to Anchorage for their treatment, he said.

Borough Project Manager John Hedges said in total the project cost $6.7 million. The borough contributed $4.7 million, and the state granted $2 million, he said.

Because the oncology center’s equipment needs to be extensively calibrated, CPH Marketing Manager Camille Sorensen said the center will not open its doors for treatment until July.

Hedges said project construction began in early August, 2012.

Dena'ina Wellness Center

The Kenaitze Indian Tribe set its Dena’ina Wellness Center’s structural steel last week and recently poured the concrete for all the center’s floors, said Scott Moon, public information officer for the tribe.

The about $35.8 million facility, located in Old Town Kenai, is scheduled to open in early 2014.

Moon said the project is on schedule.

“Last week tribal members were taken up to inscribe messages with markers on the steel in the highest point of the wellness center,” Moon said.

Tribal members also were given a tour of their new building, he said.

“And that was a really, really emotional moment. We’ve been working to build the center for decades,” he said.

Currently, the tribe’s Dena’ina Medical Clinic and Dental Center and its Nakenu Family Center are scattered about Kenai in three different buildings. But the new wellness center will combine the tribe’s services under one roof, he said.

When complete, the wellness center will serve more than 5,000 tribal members, Alaska Native and American Indians, he said in a mid-February interview with the Clarion. It will also be open to the public through state-sponsored programs, he said in the interview.

Sterling Community Center

Contractors recently laid down the Sterling Community Center’s floors and painted the lines for it basketball court, said Grace Merkes, board member and grant writer for the Sterling Community Center.

“It looks beautiful. It’s kind of a light oak color,” she said.

An open house for the about $1.3 million facility is planned for June 8, she said.

Contractors also recently installed the shower room floors, air exchange system, and phone and internet lines, she said.

“The problem is we’re waiting for the carpet,” she said. “We have the frames for the doors, but we don’t have the doors.”

The about 1,400-square-foot facility is the first community center in Sterling, she said. The gym alone will hold 400 to 500 people, she said.

“It’s very exciting,” she said. “At first the people were a little leery about it.” But that changed, she said, when they toured the facility.

Already, people are calling to book events at the center, she said.

“We’ll be so excited to show it around,” she said.

Soldotna library renovations

The renovations to the Soldotna Library are “moving right along,” Soldotna City Engineer Kyle Kornelis said.

The 10,000-square-foot, $4.5 million renovations should be complete by late summer, he said. Although, he said, as the project is still active, that date could change.

Much of the interior siding and exterior and site work are slated for spring or early summer, he said.

So far, contractors have completely remodeled the existing library, he said. They have added multi-purpose, study and tutor rooms, he said.

“It will be a beautiful asset for the city,” Kornelis said.

Nikiski Senior Center

The Nikiski Senior Center is 90 percent complete, said Crystal Wrabetz, the center’s executive director. She hopes the center will open its doors in June, she said.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Wrabetz said. “What I hear when people drive over there to look is (that) this (may be) the most beautiful building on the Kenai.”

Already, she said, businesses are calling to reserve the building for retreats and her staff is booking weddings and conferences.

The 12,808-square-foot multi-purpose building cost about $5 million, according to Rick Roeske, the retiring executive director.

The building is within walking distance of the existing senior housing and sits adjacent to Lake Marie, Wrabetz said.

While it does not provide housing for seniors, the building will offer Monday-to-Friday lunches, exercise classes, game nights and meals on wheels, among other services, she said.

Membership is available to anyone 55 year old or older, she said.

“There’s a good chance we’ll see a surge in our membership,” she said.

Kenai Central High School field and track upgrades

This week, contractors are forming the interior curb for Kenai Central High School’s new track, Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said.

“It’s a very critical component of the job. Everything’s built off the elevation of that curb,” Koch said.

Other major steps in the project include installing the rubberized track and laying down the $750,000 artificial turf field, he said. The city also received a $200,000 U.S. Soccer Foundation grant to help fund construction.

The turf field upgrade will add about a month of playing time to the season in the fall and spring and reduce the number of playing surface-related injuries, he said.

Koch anticipates an Aug. 10 unveiling of the new facility.

“Our expectation is that the Kardinals will be playing on their new facility at that time,” he said.

At halftime of the football game, he said, the high school may even hold a 1 mile community race on its new track.

“That would really be a lot of fun to do,” he said.


Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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spwright 04/30/13 - 08:40 am
Hospital Parking Lot

4/30/13 1st of All, I am truly Happy abut the New Onocolgy Center for Cancer Patients here On the Kenai. That has been needed for years & it's finally Happening.

The Hospital Parking Lot SUCKS, Anyone that has had the misfortune of attempting to locate a vacant parking space already knows how time consuming & frustrating that can be.

That needs immediate attention & answers. SPW

jake 04/30/13 - 10:19 am

Wow, lots of government spending. Wonder why the Libertarians aren't griping about big government wasteful spending?

LaFern 04/30/13 - 04:49 pm
Other priorities

It's nice to see so much attention being paid to health care and senior needs, but we have an aging population and within one generation our collective healthcare and senior needs will plummet unless we grow our population by attracting a more diverse economy with young, professional, educated families. We need to dedicate more effort to rezoning for pedestrian friendly business plazas and focus on non-tourism recreation and arts. If you build happy families and give young adults options, young adults being the driving force and biggest consumers in the economy, the economy booms for everybody.

Seafarer 05/02/13 - 11:32 pm
Gee, LaFern...

More of us are getting old than getting young. Let us have our Happy Ending! It's not all about you, you, you, and the many fat (obese) offspring you Wonders of The Earth are producing like rabbits.

We Pioneers and Sourdoughs aren't retiring in sunny Florida...some of us have never left here. Respect us for our contributions to the state we call Alaska. Without us, you'd be chewing skins for your clothes instead of shopping at The Gap.

beaverlooper 05/03/13 - 10:07 am
is the gout acting up old timer?

Maybe You should read LeFern's piece a little closer.All she is suggesting in we build a community to attract and keep young families with a more user friendly town so us "pioneers and old timers"don't have to pay all of the taxes for things we seem to have "gone soft" on and need now.Senior centers, Tax exemptions etc.Have you not noticed most of the young folks who leave to go to college etc don't come back? Wouldn't it be nice if they did?
Would you rather have us go back to the days of runway matting on the muddy roads so a body can get around during breakup,wilted veggies in the stores,power outages on a more regular basis and having to go to Anchorage or at least Seward to go to the hospital or shop? .I also have made many "contributions to the state", but the state was a by product, most of that stuff benefited me one way or another,I'm no saint.No one made you live here all these years and they don't owe you a thing , you are not the center of the universe.

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