The decision of the Soldotna City Council to place a $3.5 million bond issue before the citizens of Soldotna for the purposes of building an events center is an example of democratic government at its best.
In response to years of requests by citizens of the greater Soldotna metropolitan area, the city council and administration formed a citizens' task force to examine the needs and possibilities of an events (convention) center.
The Oct. 2 bond issue is the result of that examination. The Oct. 2 vote on the events center is the next step in the process of deciding whether or not to proceed with that plan.
In deciding the scope and size of the events center and the bond issue to be presented to the taxpayers, the city council is on record as requiring that there be no new taxes if the bond issue is approved. To guarantee that no new taxes be needed, the council authorized a $3.5 million bond for the $7.4 million project.
If taxpayers authorize the bond issue, we will use that authorization to seek grants and contributions for the remaining cost of the facility. We will not sell the bonds unless the rest of the money is raised for the completion of the new facility.
The events center would be built on a piece of land on the Kenai River owned by the city and located near the Soldotna Sports Center. The property is estimated to be worth $2 million. The facility would be a stand-alone structure that would contain five separate meeting areas. Two large 250-person meeting areas would have the ability to be opened up for a 500-person banquet for proms, conventions, trade shows, and other large gatherings. Three 50-person meeting areas would have the ability to be opened up for a 150-person seminar, break-out room, reception, meeting or public function. There would be administrative offices, a large art exhibit area in the foyer and a self-contained kitchen area that could service a 500-person round table banquet or a 700-person reception. The outer patios would be covered, and the roof area would be accentuated with three prominent mountain-shaped skylights, reminiscent of the great mountains across the Cook Inlet.
The primary function of the new events center would be to provide services for the people who live in the central Kenai Peninsula. We are not large enough to attract major national conventions or events, and we do not now have adequate housing for such. The plans for the events center leave space for a future hotel on the premises and the parking area for the events center would greatly increase parking for the Soldotna Sports Center functions as well as serving the events center.
We hope Soldotna voters will give full consideration to the bond issue and vote "Yes." I know the city will comply with their wishes.
Dave Carey is the mayor of Soldotna.
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