Story last updated at 3:11 p.m. Thursday, December 12, 2002

Rink realities explained
In the Nov. 12 issue, Homer News reporter Sepp Jannotta brought the plight of Homer Hockey Players into the public eye. Sepp reported that the pieces were finally in place this summer for an enclosed ice rink to be built before winter, but their dreams were dashed by the Homer Advisory Planning Commission.

This is untrue, and as a member of the Planning Commission, I would like to report the true facts.

The Homer Hockey Association presented a plan to use an unassembled airplane hangar that had being laying in the weeds in Anchorage for some 30 years. Attracted by a bargain price, but without inspecting the old hangar, the HHA put together a plan and rallied community support.

Almost all the funds ($1.8 million) were sought from the Rasmuson Foundation. Before the Planning Commission review was complete, the HHA did inspect the old hangar and found, as they had been warned, insurmountable problems with the building components. The HHA wisely decided to not go forward with this building.

Because they were then without a building and had no idea of what building they would actually propose, the HHA requested a postponement of its conditional-use permit application until an actual plan could be presented. This request was granted by the Planning Commission.

Contrary to the Homer News story, reality sent the Homer Hockey Association back to the drawing board, not the Planning Commission.

It also turned out that the Rasmuson Foundation prefers, at best, to match local contributions. Its support is for projects that will succeed because of extensive local investment. In spite of local optimism, all the money would not have been available to the HHA, even if the building of its dreams had been real.

The Planning Commission expressed unanimous support for an enclosed hockey rink and for an enclosed sports facility. The city council also strongly supports these concepts, and recently met with the HHA to see how the city could facilitate this project.

Soldotna supports a non-self-sustaining sports center with tax dollars, and received $8 million from the state for initial construction, with a local share in excess of $1 million. Homer has a need for a sustainable enclosed hockey rink, and it will probably take commitment of public money to reach this goal.

The Homer Hockey Association deserves appreciation for the strong effort and dedication it has brought to the ice rink project. I hope the community can pull together and make this a reality.

Bill Smith