When John Rasmussen joined the Alaskan Sled Dog & Racing Association, the organization’s clubhouse was spartan — a bare-bones building that generated heat from the crowds that would fill the structure on race days and for events.
And for most of the last 50 years, the association’s building at the Tozier Track on Tudor Road remained the same with a few minor upgrades.
“It was small but it was always packed,” said Rasmussen, who is the association’s trail manager.
As he stood inside the organization’s brand-new clubhouse at 4800 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. on Saturday for an open house, Rasmussen couldn’t believe his eyes.
People milled about the new building with large viewing windows, extra rooms, a kitchen and even new bathrooms with running water. Outside, groups gathered near the trails for displays while junior mushers prepared their dogs. The new property includes 20 acres and quarter-mile, half-mile and full-mile loop trails.
“This was something that we had no idea it would go this far,” he said. “We kind of thought we’d operate the way we are and try to improve our races. ... This is what you would dream of but don’t ever think your dream will come true.”
In 2021, the Alaskan Sled Dog & Racing Association swapped its longtime home on Tudor Road in a land exchange with the Municipality of Anchorage. That set the table for the construction and development of the new property, which abuts Far North Bicentennial Park.
“It’s very bittersweet,” said Jeremy Engeberg, the association’s vice president. “We were over there since the ... ‘50s. There’s a lot of history there. Moving here is a major upgrade. We’ve got a nice layout and more privacy from the road noise. None of that existed in the ‘50s when we took that property.”
The new building is six times as big as the previous clubhouse, with a heated garage. The land swap allowed the association to cover most of the approximate $2 million cost of the new property. Engeberg said they did some independent fundraising and received a Rasmuson Foundation grant to cover much of the remainder.
The new property, which is less than a mile from the previous clubhouse, allows for many more opportunities for offseason training.
“We can do bikejoring and four-wheeler training and stuff like that before the snow even gets here,” Engeberg said. “It’s opened up opportunities that we didn’t have before.”
The Alaskan Sled Dog & Racing Association is perhaps best known for organizing sprint races during Fur Rendezvous as well as junior races during the winter. In February, they hosted the 2023 Junior World Championships. But board member Lois Rockcastle said the organization is broadening its scope with the move.
“It opens opportunities to work with a broader audience,” she said. “We’re hoping to have some tours in the summer for tourists on the history and maybe some dog demonstrations. We want to broaden to all different dog sports, maybe things with obedience, dog training and dog nutrition and health.”
Although there are plenty of modern features and space at the new clubhouse, perhaps the most treasured amenity is the restrooms with running water, something club members went decades without.
“We have flush toilets,” Rockcastle said. “That’s the biggest thing. That was the No. 1 thing people wanted.”