The city of Soldotna is seeking public input for the renovation and expansion of the 30-year-old Soldotna Sports Center.
A meeting to discuss athletic needs is scheduled for Thursday, and a second meeting focusing on a teen community center will take place Monday. Both meetings are from 5-7 p.m. at the sports center.
Nancy Casey, landscape architect for Casey Planning and Design, who is designing the Recreation and Trails Master Plan that will be delivered to the Soldotna City Council in October, was awarded a contract to design the Soldotna Sports Center Master Plan at a city meeting June 12.
Mark Dixson, Soldotna City Manager, said the city isn’t putting a restricting budget on the project to allow the public to consider all possible features for the expansion.
“(We) encourage people to think outside the box,” he said.
In the process of designing the recreation and trails plan, which is 95 percent complete, Casey received public input for the sports center.
She said many people are looking for more social ice time in Soldotna.
Andrew Carmichael, Soldotna parks and recreation director, said the city has been clearing Arc Lake along the Sterling Highway for recreational skaters and the city plans to have a skating path at Soldotna Creek Park this winter. He also said bringing back the outdoor rink outside the sports center may be an option.
“You can have 20 ice rinks … and it’s never enough,” Carmichael said.
Other additions Casey said may be considered are a larger conference and tradeshow space, a teen center and an indoor turf field.
“Where we end up most pinched is conference space,” Carmichael said. Conferences need a large room to serve meals as well as breakout rooms. The lack of segregation and separate bathrooms when the building hosts both hockey games and conferences has caused some issues, he said.
Dixson said tradeshows could sell more tickets to events, but the sports center doesn’t have the room to accommodate more attendees.
Casey said, based on her survey results, teens would use a teen center after school and on weekends. Incorporating a space for youth in the sports center would save money on staffing separate facilities, but it is not within easy walking distance from the city center, which raises transportation concerns.
The state granted Soldotna High School funding for a new turf field, but the outdoor field will only allow for a few extra weeks of playing time. An indoor field would permit year-round floor time making winter leagues an option, Casey said.
Casey said along with expansion projects, updates and renovations for the building need to be done, starting with a new boiler to be installed this winter. Also, the roof needs to be replaced — a hose running from the ceiling to a bucket at the top of the bleachers collects water. Carmichael said there are other leaks throughout the building, which vary depending on the weather.
For it’s age and maximum usage, Casey said the building has held together well.
“It’s a 30-year-old building with a lot of use and a lot of Band-Aids,” Carmichael said. “We’re going to bring it back in a big way.”
The project is still in the assessment phase for expansion and renovation with concept and price tag finalization scheduled for early September.
Dixson said the project with its cost estimate needs to be put on the city’s list of priorities in October or November, if it’s going to be the “No. 1 project.”
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