“We want the Games!”
Remember that sentiment? It was hard to miss back in January 2003, when the Arctic Winter Games committee came to town to evaluate the Kenai Peninsula as possible hosts for the 2006 event.
Business reader boards, banners, digital scrolling signs, posters, letters to the editor and voices on the radio trumpeted the same refrain. A swelling of community pride and dreams of the positive exposure and economic boon such a large-scale endeavor would bring to the peninsula reverberated in that simple statement.
“We want the Games.”
Well, we got them and a financial headache along with them.
After the peninsula was granted its wish to host the circumpolar sport competition and cultural exchange, the common refrain became one of reassurance that things were falling into place. Volunteers are stepping up. The cities are on board. Corporate sponsorships are coming along. Grants have been secured. In-kind donations have surpassed expectations.
But as it turns out, the Games aren’t going off without a hitch.
To be fair, no one said they would.
Games organizers have cautioned that the budget likely would have to be revised as the March event neared. That’s not surprising, considering the enormity of the planning involved and the fact that the peninsula has no experience putting on such a large-scale event.
So how big of a hitch are we talking about? Even after a round of budget cutting, the shortfall looks to be $800,000.
When that news was announced last week, it was met with a round of finger-pointing. Is the host society bungling its management duties? Are corporate sponsors being stingy? Are the cities being greedy? Is it none or all of the above?
According to Tim Dillon, AWG general manager, the shortfall is due to several factors, all boiling down to the fact that not enough money has been raised at this point. Dillon bemoaned the fact that the host society didn’t have a fundraiser on staff or fundraising board when he took the helm in March. Hurricane Katrina quashed hopes of the federal government chipping in a couple hundred thousand dollars more than they already have. The revenue that’s expected to be generated by the Games like ticket sales and money from selling beds and timing equipment won’t be realized until after the Games are over.
So where does that leave us now? Still finger-pointing, unfortunately, and theorizing who’s going to get stuck holding the bag.
The refrain has become, “What went wrong and who’s to blame?”
While it is important to find out what happened in order to correct and learn from whatever mistakes were made, there is a more important question that needs to be focused on:
“What can we do to get the Games back on track?”
The host society is requesting the state come to the financial rescue. Hopefully Gov. Frank Murkowski and lawmakers will see that the Games aren’t just a peninsula event. Alaska as a whole is a member of the northern community celebrated by the Games. Kids from across the state will participate, and the culture of more than just the peninsula will be on display.
If the state doesn’t step in with the money, it’ll be on the peninsula’s shoulders to honor the contracts that were made and put on the best Arctic Winter Games possible, whether through more budget cutting or increased sponsorships and donations.
Let’s not forget why the peninsula asked to host the Games in the first place a chance to show off the peninsula and reap some long-lasting rewards in the process.
We wanted the Games, now let’s show we can handle them.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.