Stevens lends hand to help fund Games

Congressional appropriation, fundraiser help fill financial gap

Posted: Sunday, January 08, 2006

The financial outlook for the Arctic Winter Games, which appeared bleak less than two months ago upon the announcement of a nearly $800,000 projected shortfall, is looking better this week, due in large part to the efforts of Sen. Ted Stevens.

Stevens attached a $500,000 allocation for the Games to the recently passed defense spending bill — the same bill onto which legislation that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling was tacked. ANWR was dropped from the final bill; the money for the Games stayed.

The news could not have come at a more opportune time. The Kenai Peninsula Borough is ultimately responsible for any AWG shortfall, and last week an assessment by borough Mayor John Williams’ administration characterized the borough’s situation as “on the brink of financial collapse.”

Games organizers, who gathered nearly $200,000 in cash and in-kind donations through the month of December, released news of the federal allocation Thursday, along with the official announcement of a fundraising dinner and auction to be held Friday at the Anchorage Hilton. An invitation to the event was circulated among industry leaders prior to the announcement.

Stevens, the guest of honor, will speak briefly at the event, which is the third major fundraiser for the Games in the space of a year. The first two were the one-year-out celebration in March and a six-months-out gala in October, which featured former Gov. Walter Hickel. Stevens, who is traveling and was unavailable for comment, offered his assistance for the dinner and auction almost a half a year ago.

According to AWG General Manager Tim Dillon, the idea was sparked from a conversation he had with the senator over the summer. Dillon had worked with Stevens on events such as the Great Alaska Shootout while serving as the athletic director and vice chancellor at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“When he asked, ‘What could I do,’ I was not shy and I told him what he could do, and he’s doing it for us in a big, big way,” Dillon said.

The event, which also will include an update from organizers and a performance by Hobo Jim, may prove to be the most lucrative of the three major fundraisers, although AWG Revenue Chair Bill Popp won’t go so far as to say how lucrative.

“I wouldn’t really want to say a number,” Popp said. “I’m a little superstitious about that.”

The possibility of the event generating a significant tally is a great, however. Tables of eight go for $1,000 this time around, and single seats run $125. By comparison, tickets for the six-months-out dinner were $80, and tickets for the one-year-out event, which also included an auction, were only $40.

The goal, Popp said, is to fill 30 tables, and as of Thursday, 20 tables were sold. Many of the $1,000 tables were sold to tourism, oil and gas, mining and utilities companies and Native corporations through the advance invitation.

“It’s a who’s who of large industries,” Popp said of the buyers.

The auction's offerings also were gathered from those industries, with travel packages around the Kenai Peninsula, Southcentral Alaska and Outside up for grabs, as well as Native artwork, Arctic Winter Games packages and a signed Lance Armstrong jersey. A full list of the donors and auction items will be made available Monday.

The auction also will seek support for the estimated 1,900 athletes and performers expected to attend the Games, as organizers plan to auction off bunk beds for $100 apiece. Popp said the beds will be auctioned off in bulk, with bidders sought for blocks of 100 beds first, then 80, then 60 and so forth down to single beds.

“We believe we will end up with several hundred beds sponsored at $100 a bed,” Popp said.

Anyone interested in attending the the dinner can call Popp for reservations at 714-2335. The deadline to purchase tickets is Tuesday.



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