A number of ideas for the continued development of the area around the Soldotna Sports Center were bandied about at a public meeting Thursday night in Soldot-na.
Mayor Ken Lancaster said the first in a series of fact-finding and planning meetings was held to discuss the future of the area.
"(We were) looking at things we can do with the sports center and the Centennial Park area," Lancaster said. "We'd like to see what we can do to enhance that entire area, not just the sports center, but the little league and equestrian areas. The whole 200-acre complex."
He said there have been ongoing discussions with the equestrian group about finding them another location in the area.
"Not to get them out of there, but to give them enough room to build a structure to hold inside rodeos," he said. "I want to keep them centrally located so when people come down they're not off the beaten track."
He said he's been working with the Kenai Peninsula Borough and private land owners about property for the equestrians. He said he envisioned a three- to five-year time frame in moving them to a new home. Once that is done, or even before, he said the little league fields can be expanded, or softball fields put in.
But the item at the top of Lancaster's and many at the meeting participant's list is construction of a field house.
He said the field house can be used for innumerable activities, such as sporting events, conventions, car shows and wedding receptions. One might assume many of those functions would duplicate what is being done currently at the sports center, but Lancaster said they can be done better in a venue that is more flexible.
"If we have a convention at the sports center, I have to take the ice out and then every hockey player in town hates me," he said. "Obviously it works, we've been using it for 12 years, but we want to try to accommodate more types of uses, and the sports center isn't really that flexible. The meeting rooms aren't really the quality of most."
He said field houses can be as large as two football fields, but said it was too early on in the process to say how big or expensive one in Soldotna would be.
"I'd rather see a field house sooner than later," he said. "But it would be dictated by capital funding and bonding."
Lancaster said that Thursday's meeting included a lot of discussion of funding, though some attendees wanted to concentrate solely on quality of life issues and to leave finances out of it.
He conceded a field house would most likely exacerbate the parking and access problems already experienced by visitors to the sports center and other venues in the area. He said the creation of a turning lane on Kalifornsky Beach Road and an eventual realignment of the road could help.
City officials will have a meeting with Ray Adamson of Raven Contractors about ideas for a master plan for the area later this week and then schedule another public meeting in the near future.
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