As part of her report to the Soldotna City Council Wednesday night, Shannon Davis of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce announced scaled-back plans for the long-awaited new visitor center.
“In light of the current economic situation, the chamber really took a hard look at what we could conceivably do to make this building a reality. And we're really scaling that back and we're looking at what we can do with about an 8,500-square-foot building," she said. "It would include the conference center, not as large as we would like. But it would it put us at a much better location. It would give us quite a bit more square footage than we have now. And it would cost us about $4.5 million, which is what we think we would be able to raise through a capital campaign.”
Davis said the chamber will be hiring a specialist to coordinate that capital campaign.
Though much smaller than the dream building once envisioned, Davis said the new building will be designed with expandability in mind.
“That is one of the most important things that the building be outfitted for easy expansion," she said. "And that includes everything from an unfinished basement that we will be able to turn into a large conference space at a later date, to making sure the caters' kitchen that we will have built is going to be outfitted to be a full commercial kitchen, even though we won’t have all the equipment set up in it when we first build it.”
With a capacity of about 250, Davis says she anticipates being able to attract medium-sized conventions. Councilwoman Lisa Parker agreed, saying there were plenty in Alaska to lure.
“McDowell Group, in one of the studies that they did, identified a lot of conferences that are in the 150-range that would be just optimum. And there a lot that are here in-state, organizations that we can recruit to come in-state, and you're only talking 150," Parker said. "I think the location there on Davis Block adjacent to Soldotna Creek Park, with the concert facilities there, is just an ideal location, and you’ll see your visitor numbers pick up, too.”
Davis said the building’s architects should have a new design available soon, and when she receives it, she’ll be back before the Soldotna council to share it with them.