Assembly panel says no to Alaska Club pool

Private facility would not be big enough or be open enough hours for public, says committee

Posted: Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Thanks, but no.

The Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole unanimously declined the Alaska Club's offer to build a community pool in Mendenhall Valley. Mayor Bruce Botelho and Assembly member Johan Dybdahl were absent from the meeting.

Many Assembly members said the Alaska Club's plan doesn't meet the community's needs. Although a private pool would save money for the city, the Alaska Club's proposed pool would not be open as many hours as the city's.

The Alaska Club's "swimming pool has only six lanes and cannot be used for swim meets," said Deputy Mayor Marc Wheeler. "It only has one tank. You cannot adjust the temperature. For competitive swimming you need a colder pool. For recreational swimming, you need a warmer pool."

For 20 years, the city has been planning to build a swimming pool in Dimond Park. And it now might become a reality, as the city plans to build a new high school and a library along with the pool.

Andrew Eker, president of the Alaska Club, has been persuading the city to drop its proposal. He said the Valley has enough population to support one pool but not two. The club has been planning to build a pool in the Valley since 2001.

The aquatic center proposed by the city would have far more features than the one proposed by the Alaska Club.

The city envisions a center with an eight-lane pool and a 5,500-square-foot recreation area. It would have a whirlpool for adults and an interactive play structure and various spray features for children.

The city pool would open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. A full-day pass would cost $6 for youth (ages 11 to 17), $8 for adults and $2.75 for seniors. The city expects the pool to open in 2009 at the earliest.

The Alaska Club proposes building a six-lane pool and a 625-square-foot wading pool. The pool would be open to the public every day at various time slots, but would be closed to nonmembers during some peak hours, such as noon to 2 p.m. Not all lanes would be available to nonmembers. A daily pass would be $3 for youth (ages 17 and under), $6 for adults and $2.63 for seniors. The pool was scheduled to open in 2007.

The two proposed swimming pools were so different that many residents showed up at the meeting to support the public Dimond Park pool.

Mark O'Brien, president of Glacier Swimming Club, said he would love to see both the city and the Alaska Club build a swimming pool but he thinks it is important for the city to proceed with its plan.

"The more swimming facilities, the better," O'Brien said. "But the Dimond Park pool provides a more ideal facility for competition."

The Assembly is considering using the revenues from the 1 percent sales tax to fund the $30 million project. The 1 percent sales tax is up for renewal January 2006. The city needs to put it on the October ballot for voters' approval.

City Manager Rod Swope estimates the 1 percent sales tax can generate $30 million in five years. But he said if the Assembly spends the entire $30 million on the pool, there wouldn't be enough money for other projects such as Juneau International Airport's terminal renovation and the city's sewer and water expansion.

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



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