Soldotna chamber ready for next step toward new visitor's center

May 8, 2018

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce has been looking for an upgrade to the current visitor's center for years.
Credit Soldotna Chamber of Commerce

A new visitor’s center in Soldotna is edging a bit closer to reality. The chamber of commerce has long sought a new location for a convention and visitor’s center.

Chamber executive director Shanon Davis says the current location at the corner of the Sterling highway and K-Beach Road simply doesn’t fit the bill for what such a facility needs to be.

“It’s very difficult for anybody to get in and out of this building in the summertime, and you can forget turning left, it’s almost impossible. Motorhomes have a real hard time getting in and out and parking. And also, we’ve been skipped over the last couple years by tour companies that are driving busses because accessibility is so difficult and also, our restrooms are inadequate.”

To alleviate some of those issues, the chamber lobbied the city a couple years ago to set aside a piece of riverfront property next to Soldotna Creek Park, known as the Davis block. With that parcel set aside, the chamber had some time to pencil out what a new visitor’s center would look like and cost. Davis says they downsized their initial plans for a $15 million space that would have held as many as 400 people for meetings or conventions. The newest iteration is expected to cost about a third of the original.

“This new building is actually something that, when I look at it compared to the other drawings, I think it fits better within the landscape of Soldotna Creek Park. The convention space will hold about 225 people, which is still a nice-sized meeting, and we’ll be able to bring a lot of mid-sized meetings to the area. It will also be great for locals who are continuously looking for a place to hold that size meeting.”

Or, weddings, which Davis thinks will be a big draw for the new space. The city’s hold on selling the Davis block, which it acquired for $1 million five years ago, will expire eventually. But with a revised plan ready, the chamber will have a work session with the city council to see if it can move ahead with raising money for the new building.

“We are at that place where we need the blessing of the city council before we continue to put money into the project. The chamber has already spent about $80,000 this time around. So, we are actually ready to move into the fundraising phase, so that’s the conversation that we’re going to be having.”

That conversation will take place at 4:30 Wednesday afternoon at city hall, ahead of the council’s regular meeting at six.