Bank on it

Monopoly tournament offers fun, fortune to entrepreneurs

Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2005


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Kids play in the Peninsula Winter Games Monopoly Tournament Jan. 23 at the Aspen Hotel in Soldotna. The tournament, and an adults' one the night before, helped kick off the 2005 Peninsula Winter Games, as well as gave players a chance to brush up on their entrepreneurial skills in an effort to win prizes.

Photo by Layton Ehmke

Local dignitaries were caught making questionable land deals. Well-known businessmen bought their way out of the pokey. The borough mayor went "almost broke" after a real estate deal went sour.

It's all true — but all in good fun.

These events actually took place in the Aspen Hotel on Jan. 22 as part of the Monopoly tournament that kicked off the 29th annual Peninsula Winter Games. Local dignitaries and businessmen paid $100 each to have a seat at the Monopoly tables to win prizes, raise funds to support the games and have a good time.

The tournament was played in two 90-minute rounds. The five players with the highest total of money and property in the first round progressed to the final playoff.

Barb Blakeley, president of the Peninsula Winter Games board of directors and chair of the Monopoly event committee, along with her volunteer staff, went to great lengths to bring the venerable board game to life for the players. Each of the seven tables at the tournament represented a different feature of the real estate game. Each of the players was assigned to an appropriate table.

Every Monopoly game needs a banker. No problem there. Kenai and Soldotna banks provided staffers to act as bankers at each table.

Brokers from local real estate firms played at the Realtors table. Borough Mayor (and Realtor) Dale Bagley played in this group. Near the middle of the first round, when Bagley was asked how he was faring, his reply was "Not so good, I'm almost broke." But, Realtor Glenda Feekin was the first player to actually go bankrupt. To ease her disappointment, Feekin was awarded a collector's edition Monopoly game.

Since the peninsula has no railroads, car dealers from the area were the next best thing for the Transportation table. Appropriately, plenty of wheeling and dealing went on at that table. While trying to make a land swap, Chevrolet dealer Dave Hutchings was heard to grumble good-naturedly, "This player on my right (Jana Whitmore from Auto Country) is a pretty tough customer. She's a hard negotiator."

Energizing the atmosphere at the Utilities table were employees of ACS, HEA and the city of Soldotna.

Anyone who has played Monopoly knows getting houses and hotels on the properties is a sure way to win. Houses were symbolized by the Builders table, including folks from peninsula construction companies


Players from hotels, lodges and bed and breakfasts were busy collecting rents at the Hotels table. Kenai Chamber of Commerce players and other people from the business community characterized the Community Chest-Chance areas of the game board.

Soldotna Police Chief John Lucking Jr. and two Alaska State Troopers investigators were seated at a table for the Jailers. Businessman Tim Navarre stayed relaxed playing with such intimidating fellows.

"I had fun and there was no stress," Navarre said.

To make the Monopoly atmosphere complete, Peninsula Winter Games board member Mike Sweeney donned a tuxedo, top hat and cane and posed as Mr. Monopoly. He strutted his stuff with Snowball, the Peninsula Winter Games mascot, passing out rubber "snowballs" to be used by the players as stress relievers.

The "Go to Jail" space on the Monopoly board is of major importance, but sending the players to the "jail" constructed in the corner of the game room would have delayed the games. As an alternative, "Go to Jail" signs were suspended from the ceiling. If an unsuspecting nonparticipant spectator was caught loitering under one of the signs, Soldotna Police Sgt. Tod McGillivray escorted the suspect to the pokey and collected bail in the amount of $1 before they could have their freedom. Businessman Norm Blakeley and his wife, Barb, had a turn in the jail. Even Mr. Monopoly had to open his wallet to get out of the hoosegow.

Molly Mahurin served as Monopoly Queen-Official Judge of the games. Mahurin was the final winner of the first Winter Games tournament, held in 2000. Her win made her eligible to attend the National Monopoly Tournament held in Las Vegas. She was the first woman ever to play in the final round at the national competition. She finished second overall in that tournament. Since then, Mahurin has served as the official judge of all subsequent Winter Games tournaments.


Jim Stogsdill, Tim Navarre, Bill Gifford, John Lucking Jr. and Bob Lundstrom play a game of Monopoly on Jan. 22 at the Aspen Hotel, an event of the Peninsula Winter Games. Stogsdill later reported it would take a full year until the next Monopoly tournament to "lick the wounds" from this year's beating.

Photo by Layton Ehmke

At the end of the round one, each player's holdings were tallied and the top five winners were announced. Frank Giver, Bill Gifford, Stacie Krause, Amy Anderson and Connie Knuppenburg each won two round-trip tickets to Anchorage on Era Airlines, overnight accommodations at the Aspen Hotel and $100 cash.

Knuppenburg, with $9,558, had the most money and property of all and was awarded an additional prize of round-trip tickets on the Alaska Railroad to Denali and overnight accommodations at McKinley Village. Her next closest competitor had accumulated only $1,800.

It was Knuppenburg's lucky night. With a second-round total of $12,814, she won the $1,000 travel voucher grand prize.

"It's so exciting!" Kuppenburg said.

When asked if she had a special strategy that would explain her amazing success, she replied, "It was just luck."

"And divine intervention," chimed in her husband, Jay.

The couple plan to use the voucher for a trip to California in April to attend a family wedding.

As the final round winner, Kuppenburg will join the winner of last year's tournament and the winners in the next two years for a playoff game, the champion of which will win a trip to the National Monopoly Tournament.

Since the theme of the games is "It's About the Kids," area children were invited to participate in their own Monopoly tournament Jan 23. On a first come, first served basis, 8- to 17-year-olds were seated to play two one-hour rounds of the game.

Once everyone had their tummies full of burgers and fries provided by McDonald's and Games mascot Snowball the Polar Bear had handed out rubber snowballs, the games began.

The kids were more intense and enthusiastic players than the adults had been the night before. Peals of laughter and shouts of "you owe me $200" and "that's my hotel you landed on, pay up buddy" rang out around the room.

Plenty of dealing went on between these young entrepreneurs. In one intense negotiation a player said, "Would you trade for Marvin Gardens and a hundred dollars?"

The adults who volunteered to serve as bankers at each table had their hands full making sure the young players understood the rules and adhered to them. Judge Mahurin kept busy moving from table to table answering questions, clarifying the fine points of the game and settling minor disputes.

Probably the toughest rule to enforce was the one imposed on the spectator parents. They had to stay back from the tables, not interfere with the games and were restricted from talking with their player children. Moms and dads seemed to have a hard time keeping their seats on the sidelines while junior was in intense negotiations. Several had to be admonished by the bankers or Mahurin to return to their seats in order to keep the competition completely fair.


As the games progressed, some players went bankrupt, but as consolation they were awarded various small prizes, including "matchbox" size cars emblazoned with the Monopoly logo. Every child who played received their own standard Monopoly game to take home.

Scott Nygard nervously sat on the edge of his seat watching his son, Eric, one of the younger players, as he played the game.

When asked if he had imparted any words of wisdom or strategies to his son prior to the games, Nygard replied, "Well, we played a few games at home, but it's really all in the dice."

Whatever advice Scott gave Eric must have been good, because at the end of the first round, Eric was the top winner at his table and moved on to the final round.

Ryan Hatt, a 12-year-old student at Soldotna Middle School, stood by nervously as banker Chris Rose tallied up his total winnings. It was obvious his total was going to be a big one, since he had accumulated all of the properties and bankrupted all of the players at this table.

Hatt, who is a veteran of three Winter Games tournaments, had been the grand prize winner at the tournament in 2003. He couldn't wait to play again this year, he said.

He said his game strategy was to buy all the properties. He doesn't plan to follow a career in business, though. His goal is to "try to play pro sports — football, hockey or baseball."

When the tallies were complete, Eric Nygard, Tasha Waterbury, Jen Zacharias, Jonathan Knight, Jessie Chumley and Hatt were the winners who went on to the final round. Hatt had the highest amount of money and property with a total of $10,682 and was awarded a birthday party at the Aspen Hotel for himself and 10 friends, complete with pizza, sodas and birthday cake.

In the final round, Hatt again showed his entrepreneurial skills by edging out all other competitors. He accumulated cash and properties totaling more than $4,000. The grand prize provided by Fred Meyer featured a selection of gifts including athletic shoes, hockey gear complete with stick and skates, games and a variety of other items sure to please any young entrepreneur.

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