A brand new Mulcahy Stadium is now part of a bid to ease a long-running parking shortfall at Anchorage's largest sports complex.
For years, the Chester Creek Sports Complex a block south of 15th Avenue, which includes Sullivan Arena, Anchorage Football Stadium, Ben Boeke Ice Arena, Mulcahy Stadium and Kosinski Fields, has gained a notorious reputation for jammed traffic and parked cars that spill into surrounding neighborhoods.
Now, a project estimated to cost $18.5 million seeks to tear down the existing Mulcahy Stadium and build a new one a fielder's throw away on 16th Avenue, on the current site of the two north Kosinski fields. A parking lot with more than 400 spaces would backfill the site of the old stadium, according to the project proposal. Other improvements for the complex are also included in the project cost.
The rebuilt Mulcahy Stadium would replace a 49-year-old ballpark that shows its age. It would boast about 1,000 grandstand seats and informal seating for another 1,500 spectators, according to project manager Dwayne Adams, a principal with local design firm USKH Inc. Mulcahy's current capacity is about 3,500.
New restrooms, concession stands, dugouts and press boxes will be among the upgraded facilities, as well as new clubhouses for the Bucs and Glacier Pilots, the stadium's two Alaska Baseball League resident teams.
Other features of the project include a pavilion to house summer and winter events such as weddings, postgame events or Fur Rendezvous activities, a plaza area and a connection to Cordova Street to allow better access for sled dog races.
"The big focus of this project has been to make it multiuse and multiseasonal," said John Rodda, director of the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department.
Designers previously planned to put the new parking lot on the site of the two Kosinski fields. But that design created connection issues between pathways and the facilities, Rodda said.
Then, in the last year, a new idea surfaced: "What if we take Mulcahy and move it over?" Rodda said. "All of a sudden, all of the lights went on."
The Mulcahy plan, which has not yet been heavily publicized, is currently being circulated among community stakeholders. The Parks and Recreation Commission approved the plan at a meeting in November, and a design report is nearing completion.
It's the most dramatic development in a wholesale face-lift of the sports complex, with a retrofit of Anchorage Football Stadium completed over the summer and upgrades planned for Sullivan Arena and Ben Boeke.
Through a 2012 legislative grant, $3.7 million in funding already exists for the parking upgrades. The municipality is requesting an additional $12.25 million from the state legislature for the Mulcahy relocation and rebuild. For the remaining balance, Rodda said the city is looking into external funding such as corporate sponsorships.
If approved, construction could begin in summer 2015 without disrupting the baseball season, Rodda said.
Relocating Mulcahy Stadium, a city-owned facility, to resolve parking and access issues is the product of about seven years of discussions between the city, private contractors and members of the communities that use the facilities, particularly the Bucs and Pilots, which are made up primarily of college players, and American Legion baseball, the summer league for high school-level teams.
Parking has been an issue ever since Sullivan Arena opened in 1983, Rodda said. In 2006, a comprehensive study conducted by Land Design North with USKH identified speed and access issues and noted that a lack of event parking caused an ongoing negative impact on surrounding neighborhoods.
Ideas floated in the past included installing a parking garage or relocating Mulcahy Stadium or Anchorage Football Stadium to an entirely different area.
Community leaders said the present plan isn't perfect, but it's a start.
"We hate to see ballfields go, but there's a need for more parking there," said S.J. Klein, president of the Fairview Community Council.
The latest development, moving Mulcahy Stadium, has the backing of the baseball community, members of which were actively involved in the planning process.
"The indications we have had so far is that everybody wants improved parking at Sullivan Arena and this is the very best plan to do that," said Steve Nerland, president of the Alliance for the Support of American Legion Baseball in Anchorage.
Nerland said his organization first brought up the idea of replacing the north Kosinski fields with the new Mulcahy Stadium in exchange for two fields elsewhere in Anchorage. New fields at South High andBartlett Highare examples of those replacements, Nerland said.
Adams, the project manager with USKH, also said the existing Kosinski fields are smaller and do not meet American Legion standards.
Separately, baseball officials were originally planning to renovate the existing Mulcahy field. In 2009, the Alliance spent more than $1 million on artificial FieldTurf for the stadium, but within the last year the rebuild-Mulcahy alternative surfaced in the parking upgrades project.
Officials now hope to reuse that turf elsewhere in the community parks system, Nerland said.
With Mulcahy Stadium celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, Glacier Pilots general manager Jon Dyson and others said they expect nostalgia to swirl as the reconstruction project goes public.
"Some people will be sentimental toward the location and the history, which is perfectly understandable," Dyson said. "But like all things, upgrades and renovations and a new facility isn't a bad thing if done properly."
Reach Devin Kelly at email@example.com or 257-4314.
By DEVIN KELLY