Carlson Center

The Carlson Center is seen Wednesday, April 1, 2020. Caitlin Miller/News-Miner

The largest public venue in Fairbanks is no longer a standby site for Covid-19-related activities as of July 1.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough has taken over management of the John A. Carlson Community Center and is preparing to reopen it in the coming months as a component of the Parks and Recreation Department with a coffee bar, free Wi-Fi, a play area for children, indoor sports and more.

“We are planning to have everything in place and be up and running by this fall,” wrote Lanien Livingston, borough public information officer, in an email.

The state of Alaska had leased the building after Gov. Mike Dunleavy last April ordered it to be made available for the coronavirus response. The arena was turned into a field hospital to accommodate a potential surge of Covid-19 patients in Interior Alaska, but it turned out that the extra hospital beds were not needed. Eventually, the Carlson Center became a site for providing Covid-19 vaccinations.

Livingston said resources for the Covid-19 response have been removed from the building, which is currently undergoing maintenance, including a new roof.

Last year, the borough hired a consultant to help develop a plan for making better use of the building, which often sits idle between ticketed events.

The Borough Assembly narrowly approved bringing the building under borough management and expanding services after years of using a private company to operate the facility.

The new services will cost an extra $150,000-$200,000 and include hiring a handful of parks and recreation department employees to operate the facility.

The new community center is anticipated to eventually offer indoor soccer, basketball and pickle ball. Officials said they could use it to host movie nights. Craft classes, putt-putt golf and a lounge for youth to hang out after school have also been contemplated.

The borough already has the equipment to set up the arena for basketball. That equipment is left over from the now-defunct BP Top of the World college basketball tournaments.

The plan is to start small and develop programs over time.

Drop-in fees at the Carlson Center will be $4 for children and $6 for adults. Certain activities will have additional fees.

The center will continue to host concerts, luncheons, trade shows and collegiate hockey.

The borough requested proposals from potential vendors interested in offering catering, production and beverage services at the Carlson Center.

Bidding closed on Monday, and Livingston said the response was light. Officials are considering reopening the solicitation, she said.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMborough.