Nerf battle organizers scramble after Town Square location doesn’t work out

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 11:30

UPDATE (11:55 a.m. Tuesday): Organizers said Tuesday the event has been officially moved to the McDonald Center and will be held at 11 a.m. on April 8 as scheduled.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The Eagle River Area Rotary Club’s Nerf Battle Royale fundraiser is facing a jam three weeks before the first shots are set to be fired.

Promoted widely via social media, the ECHO News weekly newspaper and posters at local businesses, the April 8 event was supposed to take place at Eagle River’s Town Square Park. But there’s a problem: Battle Royale organizers were unable to secure a permit for the event at the park in downtown Eagle River.

“What we’ve come to after a discussion with the organizers is the location is not going to suit the needs of the event,” said Karen Richards, Eagle River Parks and Recreation manager, on Friday. “It just wasn’t a good fit.”

Organizers said Friday night they’re in the final stages of finalizing a move to the McDonald Center and are hopeful the event can proceed as planned at the new venue.

Individual tickets are still being sold online for $20 each. More than 100 have already been purchased, according to Rotary president Ruth Armstrong. A website for the event also solicits larger donations for food trucks and vendors. As of Friday afternoon, the website selling tickets to the event made no mention of the new developments and social media posts and stories on the ECHO News website promoting the event remained unchanged.

Described by the paper as a tournament-style Nerf battle featuring several types of games, the fundraising event will include food trucks and vendors.

To hold large community events on public parkland, the Municipality of Anchorage requires robust planning – traffic control, parking and safety considerations. Submitting a permit application is no guarantee it will be granted, Richards said.

The Nerf Battle Royale’s permit is still being processed, but it will require a new venue, according to the park manager. Plans for the event call for a larger, flatter space than Town Square Park can provide, she said. While the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center may fit the bill, the details are still in the works and both the club and muni are hopeful something can be worked out soon.

“This has the potential to be a big thing,” Richards said. “I didn’t want it to be a bad thing.”

Armstrong said the community nonprofit originally hoped to raise between $4,000-$5,000 from the event. The money would go toward park improvements and ongoing maintenance. Given the recent venue uncertainty, though, she said she’s unsure how much money it will bring in.

The Nerf battle was first pitched by Rotary member and ECHO News Editor-In-Chief John Kennedy, who described the event as a fun way to bring community members together and raise money for the park. Through his local weekly newspaper, Kennedy has promoted the event heavily, including frequent columns, news stories, advertisements, Facebook posts and even a promotional video filmed in Town Square Park.

Armstrong said the Rotary Club learned on Wednesday the Parks Department would not grant the permit for the park. But on Friday, Kennedy said he’s known for some time that the Town Square location might not work out.

“We’ve known about it for weeks,” Kennedy said. “It’s not the right exact time to pronounce it and to bring it to the public.”

Organizers will announce the change to ticketholders “when we feel like it’s necessary,” Kennedy said.

When that time comes, Armstrong said the Rotary will alert ticketholders with an email. While the Mac Center should be a suitable replacement venue, as of Friday afternoon the permit had yet to be finalized and organizers were still unsure of the specific details. However, Armstrong said she’s confident something can be worked out to hold the event at the Mac.

“We don’t have a plan C at this point,” she said.

Armstrong blamed the confusion on organizers having never before planned such an event.

“It’s certainly not something we intended to do nor is it something we would want to have happen in the future,” she said.

Contact Star reporter Kirsten Swann at kirsten.swann@alaskastar.com.