A recent article in the Empire describing a proposal to consolidate Juneau's sales tax rates contained an interesting discussion about how the sales tax revenue should be spent.
Assembly member Jim Powell proposed spending a small portion of the sales tax revenue to build an ice rink. assembly Member John MacKinnon opposes construction of an ice rink, apparently in the belief that ``... if somebody in my family gets sick, I might want to take them to the hospital, rather to an ice rink.'' At least, that's how the Empire reported MacKinnon's belief.
I've never professed to be as smart as assembly member MacKinnon, but I'm not sure the choice here comes down to an ice rink or a hospital. As near as I can tell, assembly member Powell is talking about using a small portion of the sales tax to finish building the ice rink already designed and planned by the Fourth of July Committee. A rink, in addition to providing much needed winter recreation, would insure that Juneau will host the Arctic Winter Games. Hosting the Arctic Winter Games will bring athletes and visitors to Juneau from the entire circumpolar region. The economic advantages of hosting the Arctic Winter Games are positive, as has been demonstrated in Whitehorse, Eagle River, Fairbanks and other northern locations. The only thing preventing Juneau from hosting the Arctic Winter Games is the lack of a rink.
The Fourth of July Committee in Douglas has done a great job planning for and designing a rink. The plans are complete, the conditional use permit for the site has been obtained and a substantial amount of funds have been raised to complete construction. By the way, the facility that's been designed is more than a winter only ice rink - it will be useful to runners, soccer players and for other activities. What's needed to finish the proposed facility is one final slug of funds that could be obtained from a short dedication of sales tax revenue.