With the experience of traveling to the 2004 Arctic Winter Games in Canada behind them, area organizers for the Kenai Peninsula's 2006 Games have settled into the business of preparing locally for the event.
In an effort to update the community on the progress, 2006 Arctic Winter Games Host Society Executive Director Loren Smith is making the rounds at government and business functions. On Wednesday, Smith brought a PowerPoint presentation to both the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and the Kenai City Council.
Smith's presentations included a review of the host society's trip to Wood Buffalo, Alberta, Canada, and a look at what the group has planned for the next year.
He said the society has moved into its offices in the PRISM training center in Kenai and will be fully staffed within the next month.
"You're going to see more of a presence this summer as we get staff on board and start rolling," Smith said.
That presence will include several more presentations, Arctic Winter Games merchandise sales, increased planning, facility upgrades and volunteer sign-ups.
He said the experience of traveling to Canada was a valuable one for the society because it gave them a glimpse of what's needed to put on the games, which are expected to bring an estimated 2,100 athletes from 10 northern areas of the globe. He noted that it also showed how much work still needs to be done in what is actually a short amount of time.
"There's only 694 days left until the games," he reminded the chamber.
Smith said seeing the Games up close gave society members a firsthand look at what putting on such an event entails everything from how much seating will be needed for the opening ceremonies to how much soda, meat, eggs and vegetables participants are expected to consume.
Following his presentation, Smith took questions from the audience. For the most part, people wanted to know specifics on such things as transportation and housing plans.
On transportation, Smith said the host society plans to use fewer buses than the 300 used in Wood Buffalo. The current plan, he said, calls for direct bus service between the central peninsula and venues in Homer and Girdwood.
In addition, regularly scheduled buses will run on a circuit through the Kenai-Soldotna area, where the majority of events will take place.
As for athlete accommodations, Smith said athletes will be housed in local schools, with classrooms converted into dormitories.
He noted that one thing the host society is working on is to find a way to share bunk beds with the 2007 Canada Games planned for Whitehorse, Yukon.
"That is a cost-saving measure," he said.
Saving money is a big deal for the host society, as funding for the Games is another big issue. Also in attendance at Wednesday's chamber meeting was Bill Popp, the host society's finance director.
Popp told the chamber the society has so far received $1.7 million in funds toward its goal of $5.3 million.
"We're making a lot of progress," Popp said.
He said funding has come from the business community and government sources, including federal funds recently allocated for facility upgrades in Kenai, Soldotna and Homer.
Still, despite the fact that Popp believes funding is on track, the host society actively is looking for money wherever it can find it including individuals in the area and is encouraging everyone to visit the society's Web site at www.AWG2006.org to look at making a contribution.
"There is a fund-raising program for every budget," Popp said.
Popp said he's excited about the involvement he's seen from the community so far, and said he believes the Games will be a success because of the large amount of support from the general public.
"We're going to have the greatest Games ever in 2006," he said. "And it will be thanks to the community."
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