Businesses get into the Games

Arctic Winter Games offer off-season boost for visitor industry

Posted: Friday, February 17, 2006


  Arctic Winter Games athletes load up on pizza and sodas after competition in Fort McMurray in 2004. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Arctic Winter Games athletes load up on pizza and sodas after competition in Fort McMurray in 2004.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Generally speaking, snow and lots of visitors don’t mix on the Kenai Peninsula. But with the Arctic Winter Games expected to bring 1,900 athletes and 5,000 spectators to the area in the second week of March, area businesses are gearing up for a summer-style week of guest service.

Avis Rent-A-Car’s Kenai Municipal Airport location is looking to double its fleet of available rental vehicles for the Games. Athletes will be transported in buses or motor coaches and the international and host society staff will ride in donated Avis vehicles for the week, but spectators need to get around, too. In order to double its fleet of rental vehicles in Kenai from 50 to 100, Avis is waving the $100 drop fee usually associated with driving a rented vehicle from Anchorage to Kenai without returning it.

Bob Rogers, manager of the Kenai airport location, said he hopes the deal will double the fleet by Games time, but if it doesn’t, the cars still will be available.

“If we don’t get them that way, they’ll truck them down from Anchorage,” Rogers said.

One group from Canada’s Northwest Territory already has contracted for 15 vans and SUVs, Rogers said, but he was unsure how many cars will be available to walk-in customers during the Games.

“We don’t exactly know how many are going to rent,” he said.

The Soldotna Inn already knows what its outlook is for the Games.

“We’re already full,” Manager Jason Jackinsky said in mid-January.

The Inn houses monthly renters during the slower, winter months, but they only take up about one-third of the Inn’s 28 rooms, so there was space available to accommodate short-time Games guests, as well. The Inn usually begins charging nightly rates in May.

The Inn will host groups from Norway and Canada during the Games, so communication should be interesting, Jackinsky said.

“I might brush up a little bit (in Norwegian) just to help out for the week,” Jackinsky said. “It’s going to be fun.”

Bed and breakfast lodging, a popular fishing season offering for peninsula visitors, also is an option available for Games visitors. According to Kenai Peninsula Bed and Breakfast Association President John Steckel, many association members are opening their doors earlier than usual for the event.

“What we are doing as a bed and breakfast association is making our places available that week and giving athletes and visitors a chance to get out into the community,” Steckel said. “It gives them a chance to have a little more unique flavor.”

There is a challenge in-volved in opening up what are usually summer locations for a winter event, however. The association sets standards for its members and does inspections for smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, hand rails and other items at sites. There also are extra costs associated with opening during the winter.

“If you have a remote site and it’s not plowed, then there’s that overhead cost, as well,” he said.

Steckel, who’s Red Cabin B & B in Kenai is hosting a group of parents from Nunavut, Canada, during the Games, said the association is prepared to take on the expected rush. The group has a toll-free information line from which potential bed and breakfast lodgers can call for information about members, (866) 436-2266. The number connects callers to a member bed and breakfast, which would have information on all the members. Steckel said the number should be useful.

“Our July rush is now going to be directed to a week in March. It’s kind of a unique thing.”

Unique is the word for an international event, but apparently stress doesn’t have to be. According to Carolyn Turkington, co-owner of the Riverside House in Soldotna, area restaurants will benefit during the Games from fast and reliable food distribution services, like Country Foods, Peterkin Distributors and Food Services of America.

Turkington, who said the Riverside House’s rooms are booked up for the Games, said her restaurant is waiting to make massive food orders for that reason.

“We can get our deliveries so quickly,” Turkington said. “It’s pretty easy to get (orders) the same day or same week.”

Bob Peterkin, owner of Peterkin Distributors, said his business is preparing for those massive orders with orders of its own.

“We’re treating it like it’s king salmon season in July,” Peterkin said. “We’re just going to bring in a lot of stuff.”

Although Peterkin can get food from East Coast companies in four to five days and shipments of West Coast items twice a week, there is one aspect of Games preparation that did leave him guessing.

“We’re having a little difficulty figuring out what some of (the visitors) will eat in terms of ethnic items. That’s one thing that might catch us off guard.”

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