Soldotna Public Works Director Kyle Kornelis (right) answers questions from Jeff Dolifka (left) regarding the Soldotna Field House on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna Public Works Director Kyle Kornelis (right) answers questions from Jeff Dolifka (left) regarding the Soldotna Field House on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna finalizing field house work ahead of bond sale

Voters gave the City of Soldotna permission to incur up to $15 million debt for the project

In the more than two months since Soldotna voters overwhelmingly supported the construction of a field house next to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, city officials have been preparing for the moment when funds from the bond sale become available.

Voters during the last municipal election gave the City of Soldotna permission to incur up to $15 million debt for the project, which has been in the works for years. The project was voted down by just 18 votes in 2019, but the city still has all of the design work created for the project during that time.

Soldotna Public Works Director Kyle Kornelis said Monday that the design of the field house project is 95% complete. Still left to do is work on a new element — a connecting structure that would link the field house to the existing Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. Something the city wants that design to accommodate is potential expansion of the sports complex’s conference rooms.

“We want to make sure that it’s a functional connector building that works well now with both buildings but then also is functional if and when the conference rooms expand,” Kornelis said.

When completed, the field house would feature a 215-foot-by-115-foot play area with removable turf that 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.

Bond issuance is closing in mid-February, Kornelis said, which is when the corresponding funds will be made available to the City of Soldotna. In the same round of bond sales will be those for projects approved by Kenai Peninsula voters for things like school maintenance.

A cohort of representatives from the city — including City Manager Stephanie Queen, Kornelis and Finance Director Melanie Imholte — attended a meeting with the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank in December, during which the bank approved the project.

The City of Soldotna isn’t seeking the total funding amount approved by voters all at once. Kornelis said the initial round of bond sales will only be for $10 million — not the full $15 million approved by voters. That’s because the city is still pursuing grant opportunities to lower the overall project cost.

“We are authorized to spend up to $15 million and what we’ll do is we’ll come back and do another bond issuance later as needed, once we identify the true construction cost after bidding,” Kornelis said. “We’re still aggressively pursuing grant opportunities through various sources to offset that cost, and the objective would be to limit the amount of money that the city has to borrow in order to accomplish the project.”

The project is expected to cost around $19.5 million — an increase from the $18.7 million estimate given the first time the city considered the project. Soldotna City Council members last month approved the use of about $220,000 in federal COVID relief funds to finish design work for the project.

Because Kenai Peninsula voters also approved such a large number of bond projects through separate initiatives, Kornelis said the City of Soldotna is working collaboratively with the borough to avoid conflicts or challenges that may arise from so many things happening at once.

“We want to do whatever we can to avoid driving up costs or availability in the marketplace,” Kornelis said. “We want to encourage competitiveness and things of that nature.”

The City of Soldotna hopes to advertise a construction bid for the field house this spring, order the pre-engineered metal building this summer and begin earthwork at the project site in fall. The total construction length is expected to be 18 months.

“We’re just diligently working on the administrative efforts that it takes to get a project kicked off,” Kornelis said.

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

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