Tourists in Soldotna may have a new place to visit in the future.
On Wednesday, members of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce met with the Soldotna City Council to discuss relocating the city’s visitor center and chamber building, and to deliberate the feasibility of building a new conference center. The chamber and visitor center currently share a building in Soldotna. The city owns the property, and pays the chamber to run the operations.
Due to space constraints, members from the chamber said a new space was necessary to accommodae the increasing number of visitors to Soldotna.
Members of the chamber want to build on another city-owned property formerly owned by Davis Block and Concrete in downtown Soldotna. The city acquired the property after purchasing it for nearly $1 million in 2013. At Wednesday’s meeting, no formal proposals were discussed regarding a move.
“Today was just about dialogue,” said Ryan Kapp, president of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.
Kapp said that the chamber wanted the city to agree to not use or sell the property for another purpose for three to five years, in order to give the chamber time to organize a move.
Members of the board said that a location in central Soldotna is imperative due to the proximity of lodging, shopping and the Kenai River.
“The Davis Block property would be a great visitor center location, and you can hook some conference space to that,” said chamber board member Jim Stogsdill. “It would be a dynamic place to go. It would be crowded in there all the time.”
While people at the meeting welcomed the idea of having the chamber/visitor center at the proposed site, the idea of having a conference center attached to it wasn’t met with unanimous support.
“Conference centers don’t make money,” said Soldotna City Manager Mark Dixson. “At some point, I’m going to own it. Which is why as much as I’d like to have a conference center [at] the chamber and have them running it down there near Soldotna Creek Park, business-wise I don’t think it’s going to happen that way.”
The city has proposed expanding the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to include a larger conference center.
Dixson said that studies have shown that there is sufficient need for a conference center in Soldotna, and having it at the Sports Complex makes sense.
Dixson said it’s unlikely that any conference center in Soldotna would attract large national conventions. Instead, he said most conventions would come from instate.
“Realistically, that’s all we’re going to be doing,” he said.
Kapp said the chamber’s first choice would be to have all three components – the visitor center, the chamber and a conference center – together. However, he said the chamber would accept other ideas if the city and council didn’t see that as viable.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to look, but we’re on the same page,” Kapp said.
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