The third largest arena in Alaska, home ice of the Nanooks and site for many UAF basketball triumphs, is facing a change in management after a loss of over $1.3 million in fiscal year 2016.
It is unknown if the current situation of the Carlson Center will have any affect on UAF men’s hockey team and its loyal fans.
The Carlson Center is owned by Fairbanks North Star Borough and has been managed by SMG of Alaska for more than 25 years. Its current contract expires June 30. On February 25, the borough mayor’s office introduced an ordinance that would appropriate almost half a million dollars from the general fund to the Carlson Community Activity Center Enterprise fund for the purpose of transitioning the facility to borough management on July 1.
Jim Williams, chief of staff for Borough Mayor Karl Kassel, said, “Our concern is the escalating subsidy that covers fixed costs at the Carlson Center. The growing subsidy is unsustainable and we need to correct course.”
While the costs of operating the Carlson Center have continued to rise, its community use and, thus, raising the cost of its overall contributions to quality of life in the greater Fairbanks community. The ordinance says, “Although venues like the Carlson Center derive their largest revenue stream from large, ticketed events like concerts and comedy shows, these events at the Carlson Center have significantly decreased in recent years…”
However, despite the facility’s rising costs, the importance of the venue, attracting events such as the 2016 convention of Alaska Federation of Natives, continues to garner support from local politicians and business leaders.
“Right now, no decisions have been made, and all options are on the table,” commented Williams. “My hope and desire is we get creative and figure out a business plan scenario that’s a win/win for all stakeholders. I think we can do it.”
Kristin Baysinger, General Manager of the Carlson Center, chose not to speak on behalf of the effects that a change in management to the Center would have on its users and the community.
A public hearing was held March 10 to hear the community’s input on the borough’s plan and what improvements they would like to see in Carlson Center services.