The Kodiak City Council voted last week to purchase a parcel of land near Baranof Park for $490,000 to increase parking space, as local groups continue their search for funding to remodel the Baranof Park ice rink. 

The city authorized acquisition of the property, located at 1240 Mill Bay Road, from owner Sung Kim at a special city council meeting on Feb. 17. 

The council also approved an additional $5,190 for closing costs on the property at the meeting.

The 25-space parking lot at Baranof Park often reaches capacity during events, forcing people to park their vehicles along both sides of Chichenoff Street. This increases traffic congestion and restricts emergency vehicles from entering the area, City Manager Mike Tvenge said. 

“There is a shortage of parking during most events and traffic congestion will diminish with the increase in available parking,” Tvenge said.

“This congestion restricts emergency vehicles from entering and requires an ambulance or fire engine to literally back out because there is no room to turn around with a full parking lot.” 

With the ongoing project to remodel the Baranof Park ice rink, councilors anticipated additional activities at the site and supported the decision to add additional parking spaces. 

Councilor John Whiddon praised city staff for finding money for the project without raising taxes or fees. He said COVID-19 relief money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act allowed staff to set aside money for other city projects. 

The upgrades to the ice rink are planned to include an indoor three-lane walking track and additional areas for team locker rooms, bathrooms and storage rooms. According to a press release from the Friends of Baranof Park, a group fundraising for the project, the enclosed space will operate as an ice rink during winter months. During the rest of the year, it will host youth soccer, pickleball, basketball and tennis.

Visions for the space include stand-alone exercise machines that will sit along the perimeter of the walking track for personal use.

The group said that construction is slated to begin in the spring of 2022 and be completed in the fall.

According to the press release, the city of Kodiak has set aside $650,000 for recreation center improvements, while the Alaska Community Foundation awarded a $263,000 grant for the project. 

Members of the community have also contributed $17,000, amounting to a total of $930,000 or 24.5% of the total $3.8 million project cost.