Soldotna Regional Sports Complex

Shaylon Cochran/KDLL

The Kenai River Brown Bears have been back in town for over a week after a year Outside. But they're not playing any home games quite yet. 

The team pushed back its at-home opener against Fairbanks, originally slated for this weekend, after rising coronavirus case rates triggered a drop in spectator capacity at the rink. The Brown Bears are now scheduled to play those games mid-May and their first home game of the season on April 23.

Shaylon Cochran/KDLL

Brown bears are just starting to wake up on the Kenai Peninsula, stepping out into the sun after their long winter naps. 

They're not the only brown bears reappearing. The Kenai River Brown Bears are coming back to Alaska to play eight games in Soldotna next month — their first games in Alaska since last March.

City of Soldotna

Soldotna is further loosening COVID-19 restrictions at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. This time, it’s bringing back hockey games and removing the on-ice mask requirement for players and officials.

The city closed the center in November, as case rates worsened locally, and opened it back up in a limited capacity last month. But it still required that players wear masks on the ice.

City of Soldotna

Soldotna approved a mitigation plan to reopen the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex this Friday.

The plan opens up the center to hockey practices and allows spectators, as long as they wear masks and socially distance in the stands.

Parents from the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association have been asking the city to remove spectator limits at the rink since this fall. In mid November, Soldotna closed the complex and several other buildings to the public.

City of Soldotna

Spectator capacity at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex will remain at 80 for the time being. The Soldotna City Council discussed increasing that limit in a work session Wednesday but ended up not taking action on the matter during the council meeting.

High school hockey and other winter sports have been postponed and the Kenai River Brown Bears Junior A hockey team is starting its season in Minnesota. The soonest a decision will be made whether to move to Soldotna will be December.

The youth Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association is on the ice but the most spectators they tend to get for games is 40 to 60 people. The COVID-19 risk level on the central Kenai Peninsula is currently high. Given all that, Council Member Justin Ruffridge advocated holding off on making changes.

“I don’t necessarily want to rush making decisions while things are in a very difficult situation,” Ruffridge said. “… I think this would be a pertinent thing to maybe let sit as is for the time being. Knowing it’s going to be something that we have to address prior to anything occurring, once we hear if high school hockey is coming back.”