To remain an attractive location for locals and tourists alike, the city of Soldotna must continue adapting and improving its parks and recreational areas.
That was the message from Andrew Carmichael, Soldotna Parks and Recreation Director, at the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon held Tuesday at Froso’s in Soldotna.
“People come, people go, (the population) gets older, (the population) gets younger,” Carmichael said. “The emphasis on Parks and Recreation is ever-changing. That’s our job — to change.”
During his speech, Carmichael highlighted many of the Soldotna’s recent changes and improvements of its recreational areas and services. Carmichael also outlined future plans that could benefit the city.
The changes and improvements included the city’s completion of park projects, the construction of fish cleaning stations near the Kenai River and the addition of electronic pay stations at Soldotna campgrounds.
One of the less publicized changes was at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. Carmichael said that the facility wasn’t as efficient as it could be and demand for facility time was high.
“We didn’t have enough days in the month or days in the season to accommodate everybody,” Carmichael said.
Carmichael said that to improve the facility, a floor system for the rink was needed to cover the ice in order to have other events at the center. After researching, Carmichael said that an insulated cover for the ice would cost between $115,000 and $150,000.
“After falling out of the chair at that price, we talked to the staff and the staff said ‘We can do this. What are they built of?’” Carmichael said.
Carmichael said Parks and Recreation built their own 20,000-square-foot rink cover system for around $50,000. The cover is four inches deep, it can be driven on, and it can be assembled and put in place in 4 1/2 hours.
In the near future, Carmichael said he envisions several more improvements to the city’s recreational facilities. Those include a skating path at Soldotna Creek Park, a comprehensive community activity calendar and improvements to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Carmichael said that the harsh weather often delays or shortens schools’ baseball, soccer and football seasons. To provide space for numerous activities, a 200-by-150-foot turf playing surface, encompassed by an inflatable dome with a base measuring 250-by-200 feet has been proposed.
The proposed structure would be adjacent to the sports complex. Carmichael said the dome proposal has many benefits. He said that it would cost approximately one-third the price of a traditional building to construct, and operating costs of the proposed dome would be 36 percent of that of the Sports Center.
Carmichael said that just to replace the current roof of the Sports Center cost $1.2 million, whereas to replace a dome of the same square footage in the future could cost as little as $600,000.
The surface inside the dome would have several layers — concrete, court surface and turf, making it multi-purposed, Carmichael said.
Carmichael said that listening to new ideas and new people was important to provide people with services and facilities that are beneficial.
“We have to change and move forward,” Carmichael said.
Reach Ian Foley at Ian.firstname.lastname@example.org.