Major renovations are coming to Kenai and Soldotna ice rinks this summer.
In Soldotna, long-awaited work will be done to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex’s exterior doors, the ceiling over the bleachers and mezzanine and locker room facilities. In Kenai, city maintenance crews will work to coat rust that is causing corrosion to the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility’s steel structure.
Soldotna Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Carmichael said the rink ice will be taken out of the sports complex completely on April 17. Substantial completion of the project is slated for September and total completion is scheduled for October.
Carmichael said Monday that summer construction at the sports complex has been years in the making. After Soldotna residents voted down the construction of a field house adjacent to the complex in 2019, the city pivoted to investing in improvements to the existing structure, Carmichael said.
Among the renovations planned for the 37-year-old building this summer are the replacement of 55 exterior doors, expected to cost around $567,000, the replacement of the ceiling over the bleacher and mezzanine area, estimated to cost just over $300,000 and repairs to the building’s locker room facilities, estimated to cost just over $86,000.
The Soldotna City Council approved last year an additional $583,000 for the renovations. Project Manager C.O. Rudstrom wrote in a memo to Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen last October that the price increase could be attributed to “Unique Market Risk” due to COVID-19, “volatile” material pricing and availability, a short window for construction and an increase in the scope of work for “previously unidentified hazardous materials and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) code compliance issues.”
Construction on the renovations was initially slated for last year, Carmichael said, but work was pushed back due to COVID-19.
“The original scheduled time didn’t work,” Carmichael said.
The sports complex will be turned over to contractors on May 15, Carmichael said Monday. “Substantial” completion of the renovations is expected to be completed in mid-September, with total completion slated for October. Exact dates, he said, will be contingent on external factors such as material availability and staffing.
Over in Kenai, summer renovations are similarly planned at the city’s Multi-Purpose Facility, which houses the city’s ice rink.
The work will focus on applying a coating to the building’s beams, where rust is causing corrosion, Kenai Public Works Director Scott Curtin said Monday. The damage was detected in 2020, when Curtin called in Nelson Engineering to survey the facility. That survey said significant maintenance would be needed within the next two to four years to ensure the vitality of the building.
Curtin’s own department will apply the coating as a way to cut costs and streamline the efforts. Of chief priority will be the section of ceiling immediately over the rink, where the damage is most severe, he said. The coating to be applied is one commonly used on fishing vessels, Curtin said, and must be applied at a certain temperature — over 45 degrees. In all, he said the city has around $80,000 to fund the project, $9,000 of which has already been spent.
From the ground level of the rink, algae and rust can be seen above the rink. Among the causes, Curtin said, is a lack of moisture control in what was intended to be an outdoor facility. Not only was the multipurpose facility not intended to house ice year-round, it also lacks many of the tools used to assess how moisture from summer ice is affecting the building.
As the city works to offset the impacts of corrosion, Curtin said, community members should think about their vision for the long-term future of the facility. His department will continually work to improve the damage, but ultimately the problem stems from the facility not being designed to hold summer ice in the first place. If users want a facility capable of offering year-round ice, an entirely new building would likely be needed, he said.
“We shouldn’t try to make a building into something that it’s not,” Curtin said.
Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said Monday that while the closure will undoubtedly impact people used to accessing the ice in the summer, such as hockey players, the repairs are needed as soon as possible to prevent further corrosion.
“It’s critically important that we do what we need to to maintain the viability of this facility,” Ostrander said.
In response to feedback he’s received that Kenai and Soldotna should have coordinated to prevent overlapping ice closures, Ostrander noted that the Soldotna facility will largely operate as normal. If summer work goes well without additional problems popping up, he said the city of Kenai is “hopeful” ice at the multipurpose facility will be back in August.
In the meantime, Curtin said the city asks residents to be patient while work is underway.
“Everyone’s patience and support would be greatly appreciated,” Curtin said. “ … What we’re trying to do is solve a cancer that’s been growing in the building for years and years.”
More information on both facilities can be found on cities’ respective websites, at kenai.city or at soldotna.org.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.