Local News


Hockey season at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex is scheduled to begin Sept. 28. It’s going to look different amid COVID-19.

The administration’s plan calls for building 30 minutes into the schedule between ice sessions for the first two weeks, which will cramp the already high demand for ice rental time. Fifteen minutes is the norm, to Zamboni the ice. The extra 15 minutes is for disinfecting congregate areas and touch points. Team rooms will be closed. Water fountains will be closed, though water bottle fill stations will remain open — and cleaned regularly.

No one will be allowed into the building more than 15 minutes early or stay later than 15 minutes after their activity. Parks and Rec Director Andrew Carmichael said that’s to cut down on too much movement.

“Mom and dad get talking among themselves and kids get antsy and that’s where everything goes everywhere,” Carmichael said.

Players will be asked to dress for their activity before they get to the ice. They’ll be directed to the back hallway to don skates on chairs placed six feet apart. They’ll switch back to shoes on chairs in the lobby, and off they go.

Likely to be the biggest area of consternation will be how many people are allowed in the building at one time — only one spectator per person on the ice. Learn-to-skate classes will allow 25 skaters and five instructors at a time. Shinny hockey and freestyle skating will have a max of 25. For public skate and hockey, no more than 40 people may be on the ice. So, at most, 80 people will be allowed in the arena.

Farmers Almanac

New gardeners who sprouted green thumbs during the pandemic will soon face their first Kenai frost.

Night-time temperatures could dip into the high 20s this week in the Kenai-Soldotna area. For the scores of newbies who just started gardening during the pandemic, this might mean learning to clean up outdoor beds, bring plants inside and prep early for next spring.

Aspiring gardeners everywhere used this stay-at-home summer to get planting for the first time, with Alaskans especially reaping the benefits of the long summer days. Renae Wall, secretary of the Central Peninsula Garden Club, said there’s been increased activity in the club’s Facebook group, where local gardeners commiserate about the approaching cold and share advice about transitioning to fall.

“Really, the preparation is just dealing with all your harvest,” Wall said. “That’s the fun thing about talking to other gardeners, is finding out how they put away their harvests. You can do it in a root cellar, you can blanch and freeze, you can dry, you can pickle, there’s lots of different creative ways people do it and add their own variety.”

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The last time Charlie Pierce and Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings campaigned for the position of Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, in 2017, voters were buzzing about the borough’s stance on cannabis legislation and the Pebble Partnership.

The center of attention this round, unsurprisingly, has been COVID-19. At today’s 2020 mayoral candidate forum, moderator Merrill Sikorski asked the candidates about their strategies for handling coronavirus and what they thought about funding for schools and deferred maintenance projects.

The forum was part of a luncheon held by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce at the visitors’ center. Around 50 people attended.

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce was an early proponent of opening Kenai back up following state-mandated coronavirus closures, and he spoke proudly of his position at the forum.

“I was the individual that took the lead in Marchm” Pierce said. “Following the very next day, after the governor reduced some of his mandates, I was out on the streets the very next day saying that I believe we’re all essential. I believe we’re open for business and I believe that’s the best way to save our businesses is to continue to keep government out and off of the backs of individuals in the way of taxation and the growth of government.”

Generally, Pierce said he thinks he’s done a pretty good job over the last three years. But when asked about what she would have done differently, Farnsworth-Hutchings said she would have handled borough issues “in a completely different way” than her opponent.

“I work very well one on one with everybody,” she said. “I believe in having management meetings once a week so that you can deal with all of your department heads, [seeing] what’s going on in their departments, and making sure that your employees feel like they are appreciated and are doing the most that they can do.”

City of Soldotna

A decision from the Alaska Local Boundary Commission on the city of Soldotna’s petition to annex 2.63 square miles of surrounding territory is rescheduled for October.

The commission met for over eight hours Aug. 3 and 4 to hear public testimony and debate the city’s petition. Commissioners split on the city’s need to have control over neighboring areas, versus opposition from landowners not wanting to be annexed.

City of Soldotna

The Soldotna Regional Sports Complex has been a bot topic at Soldotna City Council meetings. On the agenda for this week’s meeting, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, the council will discuss the COVID-19 operating plan for the facility.

At the council’s last meeting, Aug. 26, council members voted on renovations to the 37-year-old building. The city is moving forward on a phased plan to rehab the facility. City Manager Stephanie Queen says the first phase is updates to the function of the building. 

“It’s a suite of improvements that are really a lot of deferred maintenance at our sports center,” Queen said. “We’ve gotten a lot of life out of that facility. It’s an aging facility. The administration had a small group that got together and worked with some design professionals to identify some projects that could really improve the functionality of that space for the users and for our staff there.”