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Alaska Club ponders building community pool in the Valley

Company officer meets with panel to see if city will drop plans for its own pool

Posted: Wednesday, February 09, 2005

For about 20 years, city officials have been talking about building a swimming pool in the Mendenhall Valley, and now the city may get one with a new high school at Dimond Park.

But the Alaska Club is offering to build a pool next to its Valley facility - a possible duplication as it could be open to the whole community.

Andrew Eker, president of the private fitness club, said the corporation has been planning to build a pool in the Valley since it acquired the Juneau Racquet Club in December of 2001. He met the Assembly Public Works and Facilities Committee on Monday and Tuesday to see if the city would accept the club's proposal and drop its own plans to build a pool.

"It is our view that there are enough people in the Valley to justify one pool," Eker said. "If there are two pools, both will impact each other negatively."

Assembly members are cautious about the offer.

"We need to make sure we have a pool that meets public demands," said Assembly member Marc Wheeler. "We want to make sure there are enough hours for the public. I don't want people to feel they are like second-class citizens because they are not a member."

Eker said the Alaska Club's swimming pool would be affordable and community-friendly. He would name the facility Valley Community Pool.

"The fee structure would be similar to what the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool is charging now," Eker said. "There will be a separate entrance to the swimming pool."

Augustus Brown Swimming Pool downtown charges an adult $4 for an hour and $4.50 for one and half hours. The pool also offers discounted youth and senior passes. Revenues from user fees cover 43 percent of the pool's budget. The city subsidizes the pool with $443,000, said Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer.

Eker said he isn't sure about the Valley pool hours yet because the club will have to coordinate with all the users. He estimated the six-lane pool, with a recreation pool and a slide, would cost $2.5 million to $3 million. He expects the pool to open in 2007.

A swimming pool built by the city would be more luxurious but might take much longer to open.

The city plans to build an eight-lane pool with a recreation pool, spa, sauna and locker rooms for men, women and families. The city wants to pay for only six lanes of the pool and solicit $2 million for the other two.

An eight-lane aquatic center at the Dimond Park Community Center would cost $24.4 million. The cost includes parking and construction of other parts of the center such as an entry lobby, storage space, restrooms and an administrative office.

Alicja Gorska, project manager of the Dimond Park Community Center, said she expects the Assembly to approve the budget for the project in October at the earliest. The construction would start in 2007. The length of construction would depend on the size of the project.

The Alaska Club and the Assembly will have more discussions at the Assembly of the Whole meeting March 21.

Eker said if the Alaska Club builds the pool, Juneau's taxpayers would save a substantial amount of money because the pool is operating in the red now. But if the Assembly decides to build a public aquatic center, Eker said the Alaska Club probably would put its project on hold.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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