SPARC to community: ‘Come on in’

By McKibben Jackinsky

For the Homer News

It’s been a year since the Homer Soccer Association-led project to create South Peninsula Athletic and Recreation Center, SPARC, was applauded by Homer City Council’s Resolution 16-038 for its plan to provide an indoor sports facility, increase local residents’ access to recreational and exercise space and do it with private funding.

It’s been less than six months since groundbreaking of the Kenai Peninsula Borough-owned ground next to Homer Middle School.

On Saturday, SPARC opens the doors of its 12,000-square-foot facility and welcomes the public to see the almost-completed space already being used by eager soccer-playing youth.

Use of the facility is not limited to soccer, Daniel Zatz of the soccer association makes clear.

“It’s for sports activities, dances, concerts,” he says, adding that efforts are underway to also make the facility’s floor food-compatible.

Zatz emphasizes the “people that gave their time” when he talks about SPARC.

“This would not have happened without the time these people gave,” he says, also noting generous donations of materials and equipment that came from a list of individuals and companies “very long, too many to mention.”

“People have been here pretty much every week day. There are well over 3,000 skilled volunteer hours,” says Zatz. “Almost everything was assembled by volunteers.”

At the heart of the $550,000 project is the fabric building designed by Alaska Dreams of Anchorage. It has a steel framework and is shaped to help shed snow.

“We’ve seen these do well throughout the state,” Zatz says.

When it came to choosing between completing the floor so the facility could be used or hooking up to city water and completing the bathrooms, the floor won out. For now port-a-potties are available, with bathrooms next on the to-do list.

The agreement with the borough for use of the land includes a 20-year, $1-per-year lease.

“Our obligation is to make this a community resource,” says Zatz.

The community is eagerly helping SPARC fulfill that obligation.

During the winter, when local commercial and sport fishing activity was at a low, the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Homer posted on the Homer Communications Facebook page that they were “a small group of able-bodied adults looking for something to do during the day,” says Petty Officer Gary Bullock.

“We got several responses and SPARC was one of them,” he says.

As a result, the seven Coast Guard personnel from Marine Safety Detachment Homer put in 70-80 hours helping install insulation and drywall, spreading dirt and compacting it in preparation for flooring, and “just showing up and doing odd jobs,” Bullock said. “It’s been very much a team effort.”

Bullock and his band of volunteers plan to be on hand Saturday to “admire our work.”

“We all have families so hopefully there’ll be some good activities for kids to do and even some fun stuff for adults to be involved in,” says Bullock, anticipating use of SPARC. In addition to being recruited by SPARC, the Homer Communications posting also led to volunteer work at the Homer Community Food Pantry and local thrift shops for the marine safety detachment personnel.

“It’s simple. We live here. We want this to be a good place to live, for us and for our families and other guardsmen to take over when we leave,” Bullock says.

Total Recreation and Independent Living Services, TRAILS, is assisting SPARC by “making sure the building will be accessible for everybody,” says Tela Bacher, TRAILS recreation coordinator. “This is a great facility for the whole community.”

TRAILS also is helping fundraise through the sale of personalized 10-inch floor tiles for $100 each. The tiles can be ordered at the TRAILS office or at Independent Living Center, 625 E. Pioneer Ave., Suite 201. The deadline for ordering is May 15.

“It’s been really neat to see the community involvement,” says Bacher. “There are really so many parts of the whole community coming together to make an awesome thing happen.”

The SPARC open house will be 1-3 p.m. Saturday. There will be free hot dogs and drinks, activities for youth and a bake sale. And there will be opportunities for the community to help with SPARC’s next step.

“You can buy a sink or a toilet,” says Zatz.

• For more information about purchasing SPARC floor tiles, email SPARCtiles@gmail.com or call 235-9854.

• For more information on SPARC, visit SPARC Homer on Facebook.

McKibben Jackinsky is a freelance writer and can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@gmail.com.

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