A 30-year resident of the Kenai Peninsula, Tom Shanahan said the winters can get awfully boring. As the new owner of Shany's Cabins just outside Soldotna, he was excited when he heard about an opportunity to grab some business this winter during the 2006 Arctic Winter Games.
While he said his plan is to be closed in the winter, he will open for the Games.
The Arctic Winter Games is an international sporting event drawing athletes from seven northern countries for a week of youth athletic competition.
"We just heard that there's going to be so many people in town and it's going to be hard to find a place to stay," Shanahan said.
He is just one of many hotel, bed and breakfast and cabin owners who hope to capitalize on what Games planners expect may be a shortage of lodging for the influx of people who come to the Kenai Peninsula for the event in March.
Between 7,500 and 10,000 people are expected to come to the peninsula for the event, according to Tim Dillon, general manager for the Games.
Given those estimates and the seasonal nature of tourism in the region, the staff put their volunteer housing committee to work to make sure there would be enough beds for everybody, he said.
So far, the numbers are coming up short.
The Kenai Peninsula Tour-ism and Marketing Council conducted a survey of 329 hotels, bed and breakfasts and cabins on the peninsula. So far, 224 said they will be open, according to KPTMC Executive Director Shanon Hamrick. She said this amounts to about 9,000 beds across the peninsula.
"Some of these places are actually staying open for the Games," Hamrick said. "They wouldn't normally be open."
"We do still have a little bit of time to convince people to open up for the Games," she said. She said she hoped public awareness of the event would convince accommodation businesses who would normally be closed to open up for the week.
"It's a real soft number," Dillon said about the number of beds available. He said that number includes things like double beds which counted for two.
"It looks like we're going to be using every bed in town," he said. "We're going to need every possible bed we can get on the peninsula."
And if there are not enough available?
"Potentially we could break into that Anchorage market," he said.
Diana Lofstedt, the host at Harborside Cottages, said it did not make business sense for her to open up for the winter.
Her business will be winterized with the snow piled up and it did not seem worth it to be open for only one week, she said.
"I made a decision not to open up for the winter," she said.
If anybody wants to open for the Games, contact the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council at 262-5229 so they can put the business on the Arctic Winter Games Web site.
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