City chilly over AWG treatment

Kenai council wants permanent benefits from city's investment in Games

Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Representatives from the Arctic Winter Games got a somewhat chilly reception Monday evening from Kenai City Council members during a joint work session to discuss improvement plans for the Kenai Multipurpose Facility.

Apparently frustrated that a federal funding request by the Games host society for major upgrades at the facility had fallen through, council member Joe Moore had a testy exchange with Games host society members following a report on proposed upgrades needed to bring the Kenai ice rink up to AWG standards.

"I'm really disappointed," Moore said. "I don't think you're doing a single thing for the city of Kenai."

Moore's comments came following a presentation from host society sports director Chris Hayes outlining upgrades the host society believes are doable under current funding limitations. Those upgrades include bringing in trailers for use as shower facilities, office space and additional team rooms at the rink, as well as building additional permanent team rooms. In addition, Hayes proposed using large tents to provide shelter and using forced-air heaters to keep spectators and players warm.

The facility currently is scheduled to be used as a venue for both ice hockey and speed skating during the weeklong event.

Moore said he was concerned that once the Games are over, the city will not be left with any permanent legacy items. He said the proposal is similar to a worst-case scenario he outlined early in the process.

"My comment about blue tarps and Atco trailers is coming true," he said.

The proposed upgrades fall far short of an earlier proposal that would have fully enclosed the currently open facility - at a cost of more than $1 million.

However, that plan was contingent upon the federal funds coming though. Host society President Dale Bagley appeared frustrated with Moore's comments in light of the fact that the Games does not have the budget to fund major upgrades at Kenai's facility.

"Do you want more money?" he asked Moore.

"Yeah," Moore replied.

"How much do you want, Joe?" asked Games Revenue Director Bill Popp.

"One point seven million," Moore said.

"Not going to happen," Popp said.

Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said Moore's sentiments reflect a feeling on the council that Kenai is not going to get much return on its investment in the Games, which includes more than $200,000 in contributions and in-kind services - much of which comes from the city letting the Games use its PRISM center as a headquarters.

"I think they're beginning to feel like they're the stepchild," Porter said.

She said she is worried that once the games are over, nothing will be left in town to show for it.

Popp pointed out that Kenai is actually getting more money for improvements than Soldotna is.

However, Soldotna's im-provements will come in the form of a new marquee, scoreboard and entrance at the Soldotna Sports Center - items which will remain after the Games are over.

Host society Facilities Director Andrew Carmichael said bickering over who gets what isn't in keeping with the spirit of the Games. He pointed out that simply bringing the international sporting and cultural event to the central Kenai Peninsula is the reason for hosting the Games.

"That is the true legacy," he said.

After clearing the air on the issue of long-term improvements, host society and city officials agreed to try and find an alternative that will benefit both parties.

Following the meeting, Bagley said a proposal for upgrades at the facility will have to go before the full Games board, after which Games representatives will return to the city with a proposal. That proposal likely will come in January. The city will then have to sign off on any improvements to be made to its facility.

As it stands now, the most likely improvements will include some combination of using trailers and installing permanent team rooms, lighting and upgraded bathroom facilities. It's still possible that additional items - such as security cameras, a sprinkler system, bleachers, radiant heating, fire alarms, and a fourth wall - could be forthcoming.

"We'll put together a proposal and present it to you," Bagley said.

Porter thanked the representatives for attending the meeting and said she was appreciative of their efforts. The 2006 Arctic Winter Games are just 446 days away.

"We'll look forward to hearing back from you," she said.

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