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What's going on at Centennial Hall?

Facility seeing $4M in renovations

Posted: August 31, 2014 - 12:08am
Steven Pfister, right, facility manager for the city-owned Centennial Hall, talks with Tomy Yorba, of Jensen Yorba Lott, Inc., in front of construction on a second set of bathrooms which are part of the $3.7 million remodeling of the convention center. A new roof, replacement of all water pipes and new stage equipment are also included in the remodel. The center was built in 1983.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Steven Pfister, right, facility manager for the city-owned Centennial Hall, talks with Tomy Yorba, of Jensen Yorba Lott, Inc., in front of construction on a second set of bathrooms which are part of the $3.7 million remodeling of the convention center. A new roof, replacement of all water pipes and new stage equipment are also included in the remodel. The center was built in 1983.

Centennial Hall’s notoriously long bathroom lines will be a thing of the past once almost $4 million in renovations are completed at the facility.

Since May, Juneau’s city-operated convention center has been under construction to update a 30-year-old roof and more than double the number of women’s bathroom stalls in the building. The work should be done in February 2015, facility manager Steven Pfister said.

The update will add seven additional women’s restroom stalls to the building, as well as more stalls for men. The existing women’s and men’s restrooms are being gutted, their plumbing redone entirely. The new restrooms are being installed next to the manager’s office in the space that was commonly used during events for merchandise sales. An additional meeting room is also being constructed in the space.

A family bathroom will be built in the existing ticketing area, which Pfister said is rarely used anymore because of the popularity of online ticketing.

During big events at the hall, such as Celebration, Wearable Arts and popular concerts, the line for the six existing women’s stalls can be down the hall.

“Six stalls for a couple thousand people,” Pfister said. “It really sucked for the women; I felt bad.”

The added facilities will bring the building up to code. Centennial Hall is also overdue for plumbing replacements. All the pipes are 30 years old.

“All the lines were pin-holed and in danger of failure,” said architecture firm Jensen Yorba Lott’s Tony Yorba, the project manager.

On Friday afternoon, thousands of dollars in shiny copper pipes sat on the floor of the hall, waiting to be installed. Updates to the building have been in the works for five years, but “it takes a long time to get funding,” said Parks and Recreation Department director Brent Fischer. The department oversees Centennial Hall.

The entire project is costing the city $3.7 million, paid for with a general obligation bond passed by voters a year ago. The biggest chunk of the project is a $1.4 million roof replacement. The roof hadn’t yet begun to leak, but it was getting close to that point, Fischer said.

“Even though we didn’t have roof issues, it’s getting to the end of it’s life,” he said. “We didn’t want it to have issues and damage the facility.”

The existing roof was built to be completely flat, but has slumped over the years, Yorba said. On Friday afternoon, large pools of rain water had collected on the roof in places it had partially caved in. Construction workers were climbing up and down from the roof and working steadily, even in the equally steady rain. Local construction company North Pacific Erectors is the contractor on the project.

The new roof will be built to slope downward, directing rain water into drains and away from the roof, Yorba said.

Centennial Hall was built in 1984 and the most significant work it’s had since then was a paint job and a siding replacement.

“This is definitely the first major work it’s had,” said Pfister, who has managed Centennial Hall for more than three years.

He said that if everything could be repaired at the hall, it would probably cost about $8 million. But he’s happy voters saw the need for the improvements the building is getting, including $135,000 in new stages to replace the 30-year-old ones the hall uses now.

“They were falling apart, they were broken,” Pfister said. The new stages will have wheelchair-accessible ramps, which the existing ones don’t have.

Centennial Hall is open during construction. It hosts 300 events a year and runs on an annual budget of about $1 million. The facility brings in about $450,000 per year; the rest of its budget comes from the city’s hotel tax, marine passenger fee and general fund.

Pfister said the convention center contributes between $2.5 million and $7 million in new money to the city by attracting visitors to events like Celebration and Folk Fest. Those visitors spend money at hotels, restaurants and shops, feeding Juneau’s economy.

But he’d like to see more of that. He said he hopes the renovation helps Centennial Hall attract more conferences and events.

“It’s here to bring new money into the community,” he said. “This place should be full year-round.”

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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