Funding freezes Arctic Winter Games out of Juneau

Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Arctic Winter Games will not be taking place in Juneau in 2014.

The City Assembly voted down a proposal to fund part of the costs with city funds Friday evening.

Concerns about non-guaranteed outside funding sources and the local economic climate played the largest role in the vote, which failed 6-3. Assemblymembers voting no were Jonathan Anderson, Ruth Danner, Merrill Sanford, David Stone, Randy Wanamaker and Mayor Bruce Botelho. In favor were Jeff Bush, Bob Doll and Johan Dybdahl.

The estimated costs for hosting the games ranged from $7.3 million to $14.7 million, according to a presentation made to the assembly from Kirk Duncan, the co-chairman of the committee to secure the games for Juneau. The prices fluctuated largely depending on how many of the facilities for the games would be permanent, instead of temporary.

After outside funding, such as state and federal dollars along with sales of tickets, merchandise and sponsorships were sold, Juneau would need to pay between $3.8 million and $4.7 million just to host the games, Duncan said. Those figures didn't include the cost of new facilities, which ranged from $3.5 million to $10 million, he said. Juneau would need a new ice arena, since the games requires an arena to seat 1,500 people, and Treadwell Arena holds just 225, he said. The city would also need to provide curling rinks and improve the Eaglecrest Ski Area.

The funding from state and federal sources was also far from certain, said Duncan, who is also the general manager of Eaglecrest. He estimated the U.S. government would provide between $750,000 and $1 million, far less than the $3.1 million the Kenai Peninsula region received to host the 2006 games. He also said Gov. Sean Parnell's office had earmarked between $2.2 million and $2.8 million for the games, but that money was not guaranteed in the current economic climate.

Anderson said if it were just the costs of hosting the games he would be supportive of it.

"The real rub seems to be the extra infrastructure," he said. "Do we want to undertake another large capital project?"

Doll said it's a major topic in the community and wanted to know if other projects would be impacted, more specifically if there would be any "opportunity costs." City Manager Rod Swope said he wasn't aware of any, but couldn't predict how 2014 would go. Swope was later asked about the fiscal outlook for 2013 and 2014.

"I think the short answer to your question is, 2013 and 2014 are going to be tough," he said. "I don't suspect we're going to have large surpluses of money."

Danner said she was concerned about where the money would come from within the city budget. Mayor Bruce Botelho said that hadn't yet been identified.

Wanamaker said the Arctic Winter Games is a wonderful event and it would be great for Juneau to support it, however he couldn't because he doesn't think the city can afford it.

"We have a community of senior citizens who are living on fixed incomes," he said. "We have bond proposals that we have to ask them to accept additional property taxes. It's very difficult for them. We have needs in our school systems that will come each year. We know they will come and they are legitimate needs."

He said the choice ultimately comes down to maintenance and infrastructure for the schools, or hosting the games.

Sanford said the next step in budget cuts is going to be layoffs, an assessment Stone agreed with

"I've anguished over this," Stone said. "... I don't know if I can face our employees, taxpayers and constituents and say this is a great idea. I'm very concerned about how our future looks. I think it's a very exciting project. But I have a hard time without knowing we have financial support from the state and hopefully the feds too."

Bush supported hosting the games, and said it's the best opportunity to get more infrastructure.

"To get a second sheet of ice at any of the numbers being thrown out right now for the community contribution would be a great thing," he said, adding that the benefit of 2,000 volunteers would include a mass of civic pride.

Doll said this was another divided issue before the city, but he was prepared to support hosting the games.

"The benefits are largely intangible," he recognized. "I think they are such when the event occurs we will be very glad we did it."

• Contact Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at

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