Winter games bid gathering momentum

Posted: Monday, May 06, 2002

Support for bringing the 2006 Arctic Winter Games to the Kenai Peninsula is gaining momentum faster than a springtime avalanche.

Soldotna Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Carmichael has given presentations in recent weeks on the peninsula bid before both the Soldotna and Kenai city councils, as well as the Kenai Peninsula Borough's Resource Development Council (RDC). Carmichael was part of a four-person team that traveled in March to the 2002 games in Greenland and Canada to promote the peninsula bid.

The idea to try and bring the games to the peninsula was originally supported by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Carmichael told a meeting of the RDC Friday.

"This is something that can't be done by one community alone. This has to be done by Kenai, Soldotna, Nikiski, Sterling, maybe Homer. ... We all have to be involved," he said.

Carmichael highlighted the fact that bringing the games to the peninsula could be a major force in building a strong community spirit.

"This could be something that really brings everybody together," he said.

In addition to the community-building aspect of hosting such a prestigious international event, Carmichael said, the Arctic Winter Games could pump as much as $6 million into the area's economy.

Borough Mayor Dale Bagley echoed Carmichael's sentiments that the games could be a major windfall for the area.

"This would be an excellent thing for everyone in the area," Bagley said.

The borough's Community and Economic Development Business Director Jack Brown said if the area is going to put forward a successful bid, there are several obstacles that must be overcome. The most pressing, Brown said, would be locating a suitable downhill ski area. Coming up with enough beds for 1,600 athletes would be another thing the bid process would have to examine, he said.

"They (the international AWG committee) want to know how are you going to take care of the athletes," Brown said.

The borough group already has contacted an outside consultant, Tom O'Hara, who has worked with previous successful bids. Brown said that outside help, as well as community involvement, will be key in putting together a winning bid packet.

"We do need a lot of help to put this on," Brown said.

He told the RDC the next meeting for the bid committee will be held Thursday at the Soldotna Sports Center. The committee will begin to take more serious steps toward putting together a bid document, such as dividing into subcommittees and doling out assignments.

One person who believes strongly in getting the games to the peninsula is Skyview High School freshman Brittany Howard. Howard was on the Team Alaska girls basketball team that brought back golden ulus, signifying a first-place finish, from the 2002 games. She said the games present a unique opportunity for individuals to experience new cultures and people from around the northern regions of the planet.

"It turned out to be the best experience of my life," Howard said.

She told the RDC that supporting a peninsula bid is one of the best things the community can do.

"You won't even be able to experience how good it is until you get the bid in 2006," she said.

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