The city of Kenai has recommended that its Parks and Recreation Commission begin looking into possible changes at the Kenai Multipurpose Facility for the purpose of staging the Arctic Winter Games.
The Kenai City Council on Wednesday made the recommendation to have the commission begin discussing the issue as soon as possible. Council members also suggested that members of the general public, the hockey community, the Arctic Winter Games host society and the Phase One LLC group, which started the original multipurpose facility project, be involved in the discussion.
"A broad section of the community should be involved in this discussion," said council member Joe Moore.
The need to make changes at the facility has arisen from the fact that the multipurpose facility is slated to be used as a venue for the 2006 games. The structure currently is not equipped with seating, locker rooms or shower facilities, all of which are needed for the games.
On Wednesday, council members viewed a conceptual drawing of what one new design of the facility might look like. The drawing, done by Architects Alaska/Kl-auder & Company Architects Inc., shows a facility which still is open to the air, but includes enclosed space for concessions, team rooms, a lobby and skate rental shop. The redesigned facility also would include bleachers.
The city does not have to make any changes to its current facility. Although the Arctic Winter Games host society has agreed to provide certain accommodations, the city of Kenai is not obligated to do anything. However, the city council said that there very well may be reasons why the city should look into making improvements to the facility.
"It is an investment in the city of Kenai," said Mayor John Williams.
Williams said that improvements at the facility could lead to additional revenues for the city in the form of skate rentals and other business.
"It's my opinion that if you go ahead and create some creature comforts ... you may get more use out of it and produce more revenue streams," Williams said.
The improvements at the rink are estimated to cost around $1 million. However, the Arctic Winter Games host society has said in the past that that money likely will come from grants and the federal government.
Council members stressed that if funding does not become available through grants or federal funding, the city should not foot the bill for improvements that aren't needed.
"I would have serious problems if we started to use city money to expand this facility," said council member Blaine Gilman.
However, if funding is available, the council said now is the time to begin discussions about what shape renovations to the facility might take. After all, the games now are just a little more than two years away.
"We need to make some definite plans in the very near future," Williams said.
Council members agreed that those plans must include input from the public, as well as members of the Phase One LLC group.
"I want to make sure we're doing what the public wants to do with this facility," said council member Jim Bookey.
Following the discussion, the council agreed to have the city's Parks and Recreation Committee begin talks with Arctic Winter Games Executive Director Loren Smith, representatives from Phase One and the public on the facility at its next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. at city hall.
In other action Wednesday the city council:
n Approved an ordinance to name the Kenai softball fields in honor of Steve Shearer. The council previously tabled the ordinance in order to solicit comments from the public. At Wednesday's meeting, council members said they had heard only favorable comments on the proposal.
n Approved the transfer of $5,000 for the purpose of installing electrical and plumbing facilities at a storage facility in the Kenai Multipurpose Facility. The space will be rented out to a private business for the purpose of opening a skate shop, at a rate of approximately $240 per month.
n Approved taxiway improvements at the Kenai Municipal Airport in order to improve access to the airport. The improvements will allow Ron Swanson of Ron's Rent-It Service to sublease space to FedEx for its continued business operations.
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