Mushing group will have races

FAIRBANKS — The financially strapped Alaska Dog Mushers Association plans to maintain a full-race schedule.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the decision was reached Thursday. The schedule includes hosting the Limited North American Championships and Arctic Winter Games at the Jeff Studdert Racegrounds, as well as the Open North American Sled Dog Championships in downtown Fairbanks.

“Right now, as it stands, the race schedule remains the same as was approved at the annual meeting in March,” association president Mike McCowan said Friday.

How the all-volunteer club pulls it off remains to be seen. The association faces declining membership and owes almost $12,000 to a contractor who groomed trails last year. The board plans to reconvene Tuesday to discuss the financial future of the club and trail grooming for the coming race season.

Meanwhile, the club confirmed this week it will close its Mushers Hall this winter to save money, removing a popular venue in Fairbanks.

The 2,600-square-foot log structure on Farmers Loop north of the city was built with state money. It has hosted hundreds of meetings, weddings and other events. The building has lost money for years, but the association has paid bills with pull tab revenue. That source of money, however, has fallen by 80 percent.

Club secretary and board member Kathy Fitzgerald made a motion Thursday to keep the hall open pending a review of financial statements by the membership. Her motion was overwhelmingly rejected.

“The building has never been marketed to its full potential,” Fitzgerald said.

McCowan said it costs more to heat the building during the winter than it generates in rental income, and keeping it open would put the club deeper in debt.

The hall will be closed from Oct. 1 to March 1, which means it should be reopened in time for the Arctic Winter Games in March.

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