Good news, bad news: Mac Center in good shape, but pool repairs possible

Monday, February 17, 2020 - 11:09
  • A Zamboni resurfaces the ice between the first and second period of a high school hockey game between Chugiak and Soldotna on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 at the McDonald Center in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)

McDonald Center finances are doing “great” according to the center’s longtime manager.

“It’s going really well,” said Reid McDonald during last week’s meeting of the Eagle River-Chugiak Parks and Recreation Area Board of Supervisors in Eagle River.

McDonald told the board the center ended up $18,000 ahead in 2019, including a $5,000 surplus in December alone.

McDonald said the bulk of the facility’s revenue still comes from ice rentals, though efforts continue to diversify revenue on the turf side of the center.

“We’re trying to come up with some ideas,” he said.

One new source of revenue is actually an old one — McDonald told the board the Alaska Custom Car and Cycle Show will return to the center in early May after a one-year hiatus.

Although the center is doing well financially, McDonald said its margins are still thin, meaning one disruption in service could cause a major shortfall.

“The day the Zamboni dies and you can’t buy ice on Saturday that’s the difference,” he said.

That’s why McDonald is in the process of buying a new ice resurfacing machine, he said. Parks manager Karen Richards said she’s currently in the process of submitting a purchase order for the machine, which is expected to cost about $160,000 and is needed to replace the facility’s existing 19-year-old Zamboni, according to McDonald.

“It’s just old,” he said.

McDonald said recent vandalism to the center’s plow truck (someone drilled a hole in the gas tank, he said) cost about $1,400 to repair.

Richards said more security cameras are likely in the center’s future — and elsewhere in Eagle River parks — but the municipality is currently in the process of deciding what kind of cameras to install throughout the muni and wants all departments to be on the same systems.

“They put a halt on mine until they get everybody on a system and charted out and move forward collectively,” she said.

Pool repairs possible

The Chugiak Pool is undergoing further assessment, but Richards said she’s bracing for the “worse case scenario” at the facility, where earthquake damage added to an existing issue with the pool’s deck.

“We may lose the entire pool,” she said.

At a minimum the deck will have to be replaced, she said. At the least it will be closed for repairs, but Richards said she won’t know how much work is needed until experts take a closer look. She said the department does have money set aside for repairs and she’s hopeful a fix can be found that doesn’t involve an entire rebuild.

“I don’t have all the answers but we’re on borrowed time,” she said.

Richards said she plans to contact the Boutet Company to help with a dog park site plan in Peters Creek. The board has directed Richards to move toward placing an off-leash dog park on a vacant part of the municipal park, but no final plan has yet been decided upon.

Pump track gets funding

The board approved the expenditure of up to $10,000 for design work on a “pump track” feature at the Mirror Lake singletrack trails following a presentation by Chugach Mountain Bike Riders volunteer Will Taygan. A pump track is a type of trail riders can negotiate without having to pedal and is popular with younger riders.

Taygan said the CMBR can likely get grant funding to pay to build the actual track, but could use help with the planning, which he estimated will cost between $5,000 and $10,000.

None of the board members objected to spending the money after Richards said the department could use operating funds to pay for the preliminary design work needed for the project.

Trails need snow

Richards said the Beach Lake Trails are in marginal shape and could use some snow but are skiable.

Easement seems unlikely

The department still has questions about a possible conservation easement at Beach Lake Park, but Richards said she hasn’t yet heard back on whether the easement would be in perpetuity, how much money the department would receive or whether the money would go directly to the local parks department or be passed through the municipality. Parks board members have indicated that unless the easement can be for a defined term and any money goes straight to Eagle River Parks there will be no deal.

Camp fees rise, but remain low

Summer camp fees are going up, but Richards said the Eagle River camp is still the best deal in town.

“There is no camp cheaper than us,” she said.

Richards said the weekly rate is increasing to $190 from $170, the first increase since Richards upped the price by $10 in 2013. Richards said she looked at numerous other camps around the Chugiak-Eagle River area and found most charged a “considerable” amount more.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274.

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