Talk about dreaming big and thinking outside the box.
The effort to bring the Arctic Winter Games to the Kenai Peninsula certainly is that -- and more. It's also an idea that makes perfect sense.
Alaska already is in line to host the 2006 games, but competition within the state to be the host is fierce. Fairbanks, Juneau and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough also are vying for the honor.
For lots of reasons, however, the Kenai Peninsula should have an edge on its competitors. The peninsula is the very best Alaska has to offer -- in climate, in geography, in accessibility, in the way it blends urban and rural lifestyles.
The peninsula's climate -- not too hot, not too cold -- provides just the right temperature for winter recreation. Its geography offers all the things people imagine when they think of Alaska -- snow-capped mountains; frosty blue glaciers; and pristine rivers, lakes and streams. The peninsula is easily accessible by road and air; in fact, the drive has been designated one of the most beautiful in the nation. Plus, the peninsula offers all the amenities of a big city in a small town atmosphere.
Even its competitors for the games know that the peninsula is a microcosm of Alaska -- all that Alaska has to offer is offered in our corner of the state.
The peninsula is rich in history -- its Native heritage, the influence of the Russians, its gold-mining days, the influx of homesteaders, its fishing traditions all combine to make the peninsula one of the state's most interesting places. Even oil, the thing that has shaped Alaska's modern-day history and politics more than anything else, was first discovered on the peninsula.
How could anyone argue that the peninsula isn't the best venue for the 2006 Arctic Winter Games?
Still, having the right mix of climate, geography, accessibility, amenities, history, culture and lifestyle are not enough to guarantee the bid award.
What really is needed is a commitment from peninsula residents to pull the games off.
A consultant working with the peninsula's Arctic Winter Games Bid Committee estimates 3,500 to 4,000 volunteers eventually will be needed to stage the games. That's about the same number of people who live in Homer (population, 3,946). Just putting together the bid document will require 100 to 200 volunteers.
There's no doubt that it will require a lot of work on everyone's part.
What's in it for peninsula residents, besides long hours and elbow grease?
The peninsula would reap some financial rewards in visitors and additional revenue. Whitehorse generated in excess of $10 million when it hosted the games in 2000.
Other rewards, while less tangible are likely to be even more important.
For one, the entire peninsula would have to come together to make the games happen. That unity of purpose and camaraderie could go a long way toward building bridges when divisive issues raise their heads. Plus, it just would be fun to get know neighbors in other peninsula communities better.
For another, the games would require building some amenities not yet available on the peninsula -- including a downhill ski slope. Those amenities would be here for residents to enjoy long after the games are gone and could provide the focus for the development of the winter tourism season.
The same reasons that make the peninsula such a great place to live and the same reasons that make the peninsula the preferred recreation area for other Alaskans are the same reasons the peninsula is the ideal choice to host the 2006 Arctic Winter Games.
All that's needed is your commitment and involvement.
Let the work continue so the games can begin on the peninsula in 2006.
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