The volunteer organization that helps keep the doors open at Homer’s Kevin Bell Arena is looking for new funding. Monthly loan payments for the facility are set to double in about 18 months. The facility is one of only four in the nation that’s privately owned.
The Homer Hockey Association has been making interest-only payments to Homer Spit Properties for the last two years. Those payments have been in the neighborhood of about $10,000 each month. But a year-and-a-half from now, the principle kicks in and the payment goes up with it. To buy the facility outright it would cost $2.4 million.
HHA Secretary Jan Rumble said the association’s members and board of directors have already been brainstorming about possible ways to get an infusion of cash.
“One of them included corporate sponsorship; kind of a pay-off of the note to buy the rink. Another one was partnering up with the city to run the rink,” she said.
Ted Otis is the Kevin Bell Arena Advisory Board Chair and said sponsorships with oil companies in the area for rinks is not unheard of on the peninsula. ConocoPhillips helped fund the Kenai Multipurpose Facility.
“So there’s certainly an opportunity out there with some of the bigger corporations that operate within our area to partner with us and perhaps get their name on the side of the building. I think Kevin Bell would understand. In fact, he’d be excited,” Otis said.
The association also has plans to request money from the legislature, but looking to the city for help in securing funds or putting up its own could be an option. The HHA is participating in the parks and recreation needs assessment the city is conducting as well to investigate partnerships or different revenue sources.
Otis said several years ago there was the possibility of a city agreement for a multi-sports complex like Soldotna has, but on a smaller scale. That never worked out, though Otis said he thinks it’s still a good idea.
“I think there’s a strong argument that can be made that this rink is a tremendous asset to the community in a lot of different ways. One of which is economically. A lot of teams come down to play at our rink for tournaments and games on weekends and they stay in our area hotels and eat in our restaurants and go buy food at the stores,” Otis said.
This month the arena hosted the regional hockey tournament where high school teams from the Kenai Peninsula as well as Palmer and Wasilla that competed against one another. But hockey isn’t the only sport that takes advantage of the ice. Broomball has gotten a lot of use out of the arena and there are times for the public to come in and skate.
Rumble said the association recently started up figure skating lessons and the group is considering a curling club. The HHA is trying to get as much use out of the facility as possible. Otis said the association also would, eventually, like to replace the sand that’s currently under the rink.
“There are some foundations that you can put down over the sand that would facilitate some user groups. There’s inter-locking boards we could put down. But ideally, the places like the sports center host a lot of summer events have a concrete foundation under the rink,” he said.
And Rumble said they’re trying to figure out what local organizations or activities could go on there year round.
“Like the farmers’ market or roller hockey… different things like that. It’s pretty wide open,” she said.
But even with all the forward-thinking, Otis says the HHA is always looking for ways to streamline costs for maintaining the facility. Everyday costs include the three employees at the rink and one part-time bookkeeper as well as ways to heat the building.
Otis said the arena will be hooked up to the natural gas line and expects to save around $22,000 every year after converting. More meetings will be taking place over the next several months and both Otis and Rumble said anyone with ideas or suggestions are welcome to voice them. In fact, they encourage it.