Construction of a multiuse ice facility in Homer is no longer a matter of if, but when, and when could be as early as spring, the president of the Homer Hockey Association said Wednesday as he announced receipt of a $500,000 grant from the Rasmuson Foundation.
Harry Rasmussen not related said the foundation has given the project a $450,000 outright grant and a $50,000 challenge grant through which it will provide up to that amount for every dollar raised by the association elsewhere.
"We are ecstatic," Rasmussen said. "The Homer hockey rink is a reality."
The Rasmuson grant represents more than a third of the construction cost. It is one of many funding sources either already on line or expected to announce grants early this winter.
For instance, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, based in Vancouver, Wash., is expected to announce a major grant of between $200,000 and $300,000 sometime in February, Rasmussen said.
Several smaller agencies with which the Homer Hockey Association has been talking have indicated they would donate perhaps as much as $30,000 overall once larger granting agencies were seen to be on board, Rasmussen said.
"And there is indication we may receive Arctic Winter Games money to enclose the sides and add bleachers," he said.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley said Wednesday he didn't want to get too far ahead of Sen. Ted Stevens' office, but it looked like there would be federal money available that could aid the Homer rink project.
"We will have more details as soon as it clears the Senate and we see the intent language," Bagley said.
The mayor added that the Homer rink definitely was important to Homer hosting a part of the 2006 Arctic Winter Games.
"I'm very excited that it is looking like the project is going forward," he said.
Rasmussen said the project still needs to raise another $200,000, but that should be easier with the addition of the Rasmuson Foundation grant and other large grants expected soon.
"People need to know it is not if, now, but when," he said. "We are finalizing deals with contractors and ordering materials. We have enough to start up the project. The rink is now a reality. We will cut ground this spring."
The new rink will be located on Homer Electric Association property off Lake Street uphill from the intersection of Lake Street and the Sterling Highway.
Under an existing memorandum of understanding with the city of Homer, the city has agreed to assume the lease of the HEA land, and once the facility is built, to assume the cost of operations.
"Homer Hockey will have the facility from Sept. 1 to April 1," Rasmussen said.
The rest of the year, the city will operate the facility. Possible uses, Rasmussen said, could include being a site for the annual KBBI Concert on the Lawn, or perhaps for the Farmers' Market.
Construction will include 120 new downtown parking spots within easy access of other parts of downtown Homer and to a future walking trail system linking parts of the city, including the future town center.
Rasmussen said the association recognizes the responsibility it carries to ensure the project comes off well.
"Depending on how well we are able to raise money, it will show other funding agencies what the Homer area can do," he said. That may bode well for other fund-raising efforts for other community projects, such as a new Homer Library, he said.
Homer Hockey Association has existed on and off for about 15 years, and steadily for the past 12. Approximately 100 youngsters participate in hockey each winter, often having to travel to the central peninsula to find ice.
The new ice facility is to be 24,000 square feet, with a rink 200-by-80 square feet in area. That makes it larger than the Kenai facility, but smaller than the Olympic-sized rink in Soldotna, which is 200-by-100.
The rink will be covered and refrigerated, Rasmussen said. It also will be fully enclosed if Arctic Winter Games comes through with funding, he said.
With the advent of the new facility, hockey participation, both among youngsters and adults, is expected to increase.
"We all have to look into the crystal ball," Rasmussen said. "Three to five years down the road, that facility will be maxed out, and we may have to look at new facilities. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
Rasmussen admitted the association and the rest of the hockey enthusiasts in Homer are always going to want more.
"We may never have enough, but we will have enough to make do," he said.
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