JRC The Alaska Club announces Valley expansion

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2003

Owners of The Alaska Club on Wednesday announced a three-phase expansion plan for the Mendenhall Valley site of JRC The Alaska Club.

Tom Behan, co-owner of The Alaska Club, which owns the former Juneau Racquet Club, presented the plans at hotels downtown and in the Valley. Behan and Alaska Club President Andrew Eker also answered questions from community and club members.

Phase one of the plan would add 70 parking spaces in a lot northeast of the Valley club, which is on Riverside Drive. The club secured light commercial zoning for the lot from the city in December, and intends to complete the purchase of the lot this week, said Eker.

The club will build a structure housing two tennis courts in phase two of the renovation, which will be completed by the end of 2003, said Behan.

One of the four tennis courts now at the Valley location will be converted to a family area with a basketball and volleyball court and a rock-climbing wall. The space above the family area will serve as a viewing area for the tennis courts.

"The Alaska Club has a commitment to family health and fitness," Behan said.

"Depending on Juneau's reception of phase one and two of the expansion, we hope to follow with phase three," he said.

In phase three, the club would construct a lap swimming pool with a water slide and a "learn to swim" area, Behan said. If the pool is built, the club plans to open it for school teams and public use as well as for club members.

Construction of the pool depends on the club securing an additional 400 memberships during phases one and two. It also depends on whether the city decides to construct a pool in the Valley.

Some Juneau Assembly members have discussed the possibility of a pool in the Valley as part of a recreation center that could be built someday at Dimond Park.

"We're monitoring that closely and it would sure impact our plan," said Behan. "We'll know at the end of phase two how things are going."

The expansion plans have been in the works since The Alaska Club bought the JRC in December 2001, Eker said.

"We've done some polling within membership and the community to find out what people wanted, and this is the result of that," he said.

The club has not planned an increase in membership fees, although higher dues are a possibility.

"If the pool is completed, it may affect (fees)," said Eker. "But this isn't designed to increase the fee. It's to meet the community's needs."

Employees of JRC The Alaska Club were not privy to the owners' plans before the meetings.

"It all sounds good to me," said Pam Bergeson, a part-time employee of the downtown club on Willoughby Avenue. "I'm looking forward to the changes."

Several members of the club's tennis-playing community expressed concern that construction of the family area would reduce the number of tennis courts available during construction, but were happy with the plans for an additional court.

• Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.

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