This rendering from the “Vision Soldotna” document presented at the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon Wednesday, June 27, 2018 shows a proposed new Soldotna visitors center. The chamber of commerce plans to seek funding from the city as well as other donors through a capaital campaign. (Image courtesy Vision Soldotna)

This rendering from the “Vision Soldotna” document presented at the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon Wednesday, June 27, 2018 shows a proposed new Soldotna visitors center. The chamber of commerce plans to seek funding from the city as well as other donors through a capaital campaign. (Image courtesy Vision Soldotna)

Soldotna Chamber eyes bed tax, donations to support new visitor center

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce is still working on plans for its new visitor center and pitching a bed tax in Soldotna to help support it.

The chamber of commerce debuted its “future site of” sign for the planned visitor center near Soldotna Creek Park, as well as launched its Vision Soldotna website in a presentation during a chamber luncheon in Soldotna on Wednesday. Vision Soldotna is the nonprofit entity of “community and business members” raising money for the visitor and community center through grants and private donations, according to support documents the chamber presented at the luncheon.

The proposed center would cost approximately $5.1 million. The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce is putting $500,000 towards the project, while the rest of the funding will need to come from private donations, grants and the city of Soldotna. Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Director Shanon Davis said the organization is still working toward a financial commitment with the city and is formally requesting a $1.2 million contribution. The building would be owned by the city and managed by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

To offset operating costs if the center is built, the chamber is exploring a temporary lodging tax, or bed tax, that would need Soldotna City Council approval, Davis said.

Taxable sales on accommodations in Soldotna totaled $4,463,468 in 2017, according to a financial analysis in the Vision Soldotna document. A 4 percent bed tax could generate $178,539 for the city. The chamber would hope to pair that revenue with income from facility rentals of the visitor center and use to support operating and maintenance costs. The surplus of revenue would be $134,700 for the first year of the center’s operation and then decreasing the second year to $87,920 after a facilities manager is hired, according to Vision Soldotna’s financial analysis.

In addition to the city support, the chamber is taking on a capital campaign to seek donors. The Vision Soldotna group also hired a capital campaign coordinator to help the board identify fundraising strategies and establish partnerships to help raise money for the project.

Juneau architecture firm MRV Architecture designed the renderings of the proposed visitor and community center. The design of the two-story, 9,983-square-foot building features a glass facade that faces towards the river, ample restrooms, workrooms, conference rooms, exhibit space, a viewing deck, a commercial kitchen, ballrooms and event space and leaves room to expand in the future.

The site next to the park was originally chosen by a site selection committee in 2013. Six locations in Soldotna were considered, with the Davis Block and Concrete property in downtown Soldotna adjacent to Soldotna Creek Park making the final cut. In 2013, the city purchased the property for nearly $1 million. Plans for the new visitor center began in 2015, with a rendering that would have cost an estimated $14 million. Since then, the cost and amenities of the building have been scaled down due to the current economic climate, Davis said.

Throughout the process, Davis mentioned one the biggest concerns from the public regards parking.

“Over and over I’m hearing that we can’t lose that parking,” Davis said.

Davis said the project wouldn’t take away any parking, but instead turn a gravel pit into additional parking space.

“We’re taking what was maybe a problem area and turning it into something beautiful,” Davis said.

Soldotna currently has a visitor center on the corner of the Sterling Highway and K-Beach Road, with river access via a boardwalk and stairs popular among anglers. The 1,100 square foot building was originally designed to accommodate 8,000 visitors annually but now accommodates over 40,000, according to the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

Davis said access to the current visitor center is poor and that restroom capacity is minimal. Nuses carrying visitors no longer stop at the visitor center due to “poor access and not enough bathrooms.” Instead, she said, the buses stop at Safeway to allow visitors a break.

“What kind of impression are we giving when visitors are being dropped off in the Safeway parking lot?” Davis said.

The chamber of commerce hopes to start construction for the project in the fall of 2019 or the spring of 2020.

An economic benefit analysis by the McDowell Group shows an impact of $800,000 in taxable sales within 10 years.

Reach Victoria Petersen at vpetersen@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Kinley Ferguson tells Santa Claus what she wants for Christmas during Christmas in the Park festivities on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Christmas in the Park welcomes the holiday season to Soldotna

Santa headlines celebration with caroling, Nativity, cocoa and fireworks

Children decorate Christmas cookies, part of Christmas Comes to Nikiski festivities on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Nikiski Community Recreation Center in Nikiski, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Christmas crafts and Santa photos

Nikiski holds start of annual December celebration

A Kenai Peninsula Food Bank truck in the Food Bank parking lot on Aug. 4, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Food Bank fundraiser to auction Legos, offer Santa photos to pets

Bark, Block n’ Bowl will take place on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, seated left, and Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom sign their oaths of office during the inauguration ceremony, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Dunleavy, a Republican, last month became the first Alaska governor since Democrat Tony Knowles in 1998 to win back-to-back terms. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Dunleavy, Dahlstrom take oaths of office

Gov. Dunleavy was reelected during the Nov. 8 general election

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Fatal collision near Anchor Point closes highway for hours

Troopers received a call about the collision shortly after noon

Members of the Soldotna Elks Lodge #2706, including Exalted Ruler Robert Dixon and Secretary Shannon Woodford (third and fifth from the left) stand with purchased toys and clothes for donation to local children at the lodge in Soldotna, Alaska, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna Elks to donate toys and clothes to local kids

Yearlong fundraiser brings in more than $13,000

Portions of the Kenai bluff can be seen eroding below Old Town Kenai in this undated photo. (Photo by Aidan Curtin/courtesy Scott Curtin)
Portions of the Kenai bluff can be seen eroding below Old Town Kenai in this undated photo. (Photo by Aidan Curtin/courtesy Scott Curtin)
Infrastructure dollars flood peninsula

Federal infrastructure bill makes available more than $232M for peninsula projects

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna bumps vote on use of accessory housing as short-term rentals

An accessory dwelling unit is a subordinate, detached dwelling unit located on a lot or parcel with an existing residence

Foliage surrounds the Soldotna Police Department sign on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Foliage surrounds the Soldotna Police Department sign on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Law enforcement to host women’s self-defense class in January

Within 48 hours of the course being advertised, 120 women had signed up to participate

Most Read