McDonald Center finances remain a hot topic

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 15:01
  • Ice skaters circle the ice at the Harry J. McDonald Center in Eagle River on Saturday, April 8, 2017. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth) Aspiring Little Leaguers watch coach Bill Lierman hit ground balls during try-outs on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at the Harry J. McDonald Center in Eagle River. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Anchorage park officials say they’re still trying to get a clear picture of the financial situation at Eagle River’s Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center.

“They indicate they might have a few discrepancies in their accounting,” said John Rodda, director of the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department.

Rodda said an internal audit of the center is ongoing.

“Their CPA has a little bit of work to do,” he said.

Owned by the Municipality of Anchorage, the popular Eagle River rec center is managed by the nonprofit Fire Lake Arena Management, Inc. The center incurred a deficit last year, triggering a contract review by the Anchorage Assembly. A separate review by the municipality’s Internal Audit Department revealed numerous accounting and management issues.

After multiple meetings with center management and municipal auditors, in February, Anchorage Assembly members approved a renewed facility management contract. McDonald center manager Reid McDonald introduced a new marketing plan intended to raise revenues and push the center into the black.

More than a quarter of the way through the new year, though, municipal officials and park supervisors are still unsure whether the plan will work. Speaking to members of the Chugiak Community Council in April, Eagle River Parks and Recreation Board of Supervisors member Tony Sisto described the center’s ongoing financial issues.

“It’s still a struggle,” Sisto said. “It’s not a success yet, but we’re still working.”

Because “The Mac” has yet to complete its own audit for 2016, financial reports from the first quarter of 2017 give an incomplete picture. The assembly approved a subsidy of up to $50,000 for 2016, and though the municipality expects to subsidize the center again this year, Rodda said, “we don’t know what that number will be.”

The parks director said the municipality is still waiting for up-to-date information, evaluating its next moves.

“There’s a lot of discussions about what ifs, but it would be very difficult to say at this point,” Rodda said.

He said he expects to have a better idea of the rec center’s financial status by the middle of May. The matter should then appear before the Eagle River Parks and Recreation Board of Supervisors, which meets on the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Eagle River Town Center, 12001 Business Blvd.

Contact Star reporter Kirsten Swann at [email protected]

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