The city of Kodiak skated a bit farther toward being able to pay for major improvements to the Baranof Park Recreation Center last week with the acceptance of a major donation.
In a letter from Mark Withrow and Carol Jergens, honorary co-chairs of the Friends of Baranof Park and Kodiak Hockey League, the Alaska Community Foundation provided a $285,000 grant for improvements to the ice rink and rec center. The city will deposit the donation into the Baranof Park Improvement Project.
“Among those improvements are new glass, rubber material for the new walking track, new scoreboards, 100 pairs of rental skates and helmets, and exercise equipment to be placed around the facility,” Withrow and Jergens note in their letter.
The Friends of Baranof Park applied for the ACF grant in 2020 and were recently awarded the funds, which were transferred to the city.
The grant comes on top of the $290,000 in private donations the organization has received from local residents and groups over the years. The City of Kodiak also has set aside $800,000 in funding over the years, including $150,000 from its Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
The goal is to enclose the recreation center building to protect it from inclement weather conditions, add a three-lane indoor walking track for exercising, additional bathrooms to the park and changing/locker room for players from different sports. According to the Friends of Baranof 2020 annual report, the upgrades will also allow “youth to practice sports and host out-of-town teams for baseball, football, track soccer, tennis, and hockey.”
The Baranof ice rink is more than two decades old, has seen a lot of use and has outgrown its current design, according to the Friends of Baranof. While the ice rink is sheltered by a roof, it is open to exposure from the elements for the first 12 feet, “making skating difficult during 40-mph winds that are common during the season.”
The city contracted with ECI Architecture Design Alaska last year to draw up partial design schematics before moving forward with a full design in September for $275,227. The designs are 100 percent complete now and just need complete funding for construction.
Between city funds, donations and grants, the Friends of Baranof has $1.3 million, or 35 percent of its overall goal. The Friends of Baranof is attempting to raise $3.8 million, up from an originally estimated $3.1 million needed from the project.
The Friends of Baranof has submitted a $450,000 grant application to the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, a Pacific Northwest organization, and has made inquiries with the Rasmuson Foundation and the Nike Foundation.
Deputy City Manager Josie Bahnke told the city council last week that board members from the Murdock Charitable Trust are expected to conduct a visit to Kodiak in September “to learn more about the project.”
Additionally, the Friends of Baranof has supported the city’s request to the Alaska State Legislature seeking $1.5 million and another $1.9 million from Alaska’s Congressional delegation, made up of Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young.
“Through the City we have asked Sen. Sullivan to request the Department of Defense to extend an invitation to us to submit our project for a Defense Community Infrastructure Project,” Withrow and Jergens said in their joint letter.
Councilmember Charlie Davidson commended the ongoing efforts to raise money for the project.
“This is a primary example of how dedicated the community is to our youth,” Davidson said.
Councilmember John Whiddon reflected on the Friends of Baranof’s dedication to fundraising.
“It’s really pretty remarkable the energy and level of effort that has gone into this project,” Whiddon said. “I think in terms of our private-public partnerships and community effort and support … I’m really impressed.”
Councilmember Terry Haines noted the Friends of Baranof should be used as a template for other groups seeking to raise money, and he said he looks forward to an improved facility when the work is finished.
“It will be great for the kids, for the summer time. And it’s also going to be great for all ages during the winter time,” Haines said. “There are a lot of folks that can’t get out there to walk during the winter. It will be a very versatile piece of infrastructure for us.”