Center taking shape Plans under way on Nikiski facility

Posted: Monday, September 16, 2002

There are certain facilities found in most cities and towns that serve to bring the residents of even the most far-flung communities together. Up until this time, Nikiski has done without one of those facilities -- a community center.

The need for a community center has long been recognized by groups in Nikiski, like the board of directors of the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area and the North Peninsula Community Council.

That need has been recognized on a state level as well. In May, the state Legislature granted Nikiski $400,000 as part of its capital budget for preliminary work on a community center.

"Actually, this is something I am very supportive of," said Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Gary Superman. "... There will always be detractors and things like that out here, but I think it's really timely. We haven't had a large facility go in out here since '88 when the high school was put in. The high school is a real good focal point for the community, and it's time for a new one. It definitely will get used, there's a real need for it out here."

The money will be spent to come up with a definite plan for the center.

Community input on the project is encouraged. To that end the center will be a topic of discussion at the North Peninsula Community Council meeting at 7 p.m. today at the Nikiski Senior Citizens Center. All residents of the north peninsula are encourage to attend.

The feasibility of building the community center already has been studied, and the ideas of what it would look like and what elements it would include have been discussed. However, no set design has been finalized.

"It's in a conceptual stage at this point," Superman said. "Out of this (money) we're hoping to kind of solidify the concept of it and get into some design work, conceptual drawings and maybe do a little ground work."

At this point, the most likely spot for the center will be on a 60-acre parcel of land adjoining the recreation center. The funding was granted through the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area, so the center will be somewhat under its jurisdiction anyway, Superman said.

Prior discussions about what facilities the center should provide have generated several ideas. A large gathering area for weddings, funerals and dances is a likely element. Other ideas are classrooms and meeting rooms, an exhibit area for art and cultural displays and possibly some office space for the community council and the North Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

The price tag for the facility is estimated at $3 million. According to Superman, more money could come from the Legislature next year and possibly from industry contributions to finance its construction. Another source of funding could be the 1 mill property tax rate north peninsula residents pay. Currently, that money goes to pay off the pool, but that facility will be paid for next year, Superman said.

"I don't envision this is going to be a great overriding cost to taxpayers out here," he said.

Once the facility is built, there will be some yearly operational costs to deal with, but Superman said those will be offset by renting out some of the center's facilities.

There is no set timeline as to when construction may begin, but there is a five-year deadline to use the money. The meetings help keep the public informed of where the project is.

"I want people to know that this is pretty much an evolving community," Superman said. "... There's 5,000 people out here right now and there's really a need out here for a new community focus to improve our quality of life.

"I just think this is a great project for us out here. We're trying to bring Nikiski up to the forefront to make it a good place to live."

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