A construction crew works near the entrance of the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

A construction crew works near the entrance of the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna council to consider field house bond

The development of an indoor recreational facility has been decades in the making

Soldotna voters could get another say on the construction of a field house near the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. Members of the Soldotna City Council will consider next week legislation that would put on Soldonta’s Oct. 4 municipal ballot the question of whether or not the city should incur up to $15 million in general obligation debt for the project.

As designed, the 42,000 square-foot field house would be located next to and connected to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex and would accommodate multiple types of indoor recreation.

As of June 2022, the field house project is expected to cost around $19.54 million. That’s compared to the $18.7 million cost estimate provided the last time the city considered the project. A different bond proposition to fund the field house failed during a special election in March 2019 by 18 votes.

“We have closely examined the City’s financial position, including available fund balance to fund ongoing capital needs and operating expenditures, and are confident the City can move forward with the current proposal to fund the Field House if the Council and voters of the City desire to do so,” City Manager Stephanie Queen wrote in a July 6 memo to council members.

Debt service would finance the majority of the project cost, Queen wrote, while the rest would be covered by grants, support from foundations, private donations and money from the City of Soldotna’s General Fund. The $15 million up-to amount, if approved by voters, would go toward project site work, construction, inspection, furniture, fixtures and equipment.

If completed, the field house would feature a 215-foot-by-115-foot play area with removable turf would allow for soccer, football and batting cages. The sports court could host wrestling, volleyball and roller derby. The three-lane track on the second floor would be available for walkers and runners. Indoor recreation is in addition to the other activities the facility could facilitate, the city said, such as private parties, sports camps and trade shows.

A multipurpose room available for party rentals, two locker rooms, divider curtains that would allow multiple events to happen at the same time and audio and visual functionality that could be used for meetings and events are also described as proposed field house amenities.

One of the field house’s key assets, city administrators said, would be its central location. If put adjacent to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, the field house would be located within a 45-minute drive from 37,000 people — about 64% of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s total population, the city estimates.

“Construction of the Soldotna Field House Project will enhance recreational opportunities and quality of life for the approximately 37,000 residents of the Central Kenai Peninsula who live within a 45-minute drive of the facility, as well as visitors who come to attend sporting events, trade shows, and other large gatherings at the facility,” the proposed ordinance says.

A 2018 field house feasibility analysis prepared by the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development estimated that the field house annually would bring in about $246,000 in revenue and cost about $291,000 to operate. Revenues would come from things like league sports, field rentals and events, while operating costs would include staffing, contracted services and utilities.

Also up for consideration by Soldotna City Council members next week is an ordinance that would approve $7,500 for the city to inform voters about the proposition, if the proposition is approved. Soldotna Finance Director Melanie Imholte wrote in a July 6 memo to council members that information could include website development and infographic designs.

Both ordinances have been approved for introduction by Soldotna City Council members. A public hearing and vote will be held during the council’s July 27 meeting. City council meetings can be streamed live on the city’s website at soldotna.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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