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Designers seek comments on Mendenhall Valley rec center

Posted: Friday, April 09, 2004

Water slides, fireplaces in the library, an indoor track, a toddler playground - those are some of the amenities a proposed city recreation center at Dimond Park could have, architects say.

The city is continuing this spring to solicit opinions on what features the center should have. Architects from the Portland, Ore., firm Boora, along with recreation and library consultants, have been talking this year to Juneau city officials and residents about the project.

The 100,000-square-foot recreation center, aquatics center and public library could cost from $25 million to $45 million and might be built in phases. If the Juneau Assembly were to approve the project this fall, the soonest it could go to bid would be 18 months, architects said.

The planners gathered more information from about 50 residents Thursday evening at the Riverbend Elementary library.

"The end goal is by early June to have a product of the design team that we feel represents what the community wants," said City Architect Catherine Fritz.

The designers, hired in early January in a competitive process, have put together a list of spaces and uses and have begun to assign the sizes of each portion, and have started to estimate costs and look at how the center would fit on its site at Dimond Park, said architect Tom Bauer.

Architects showed Thursday's participants photos of other recreation centers and libraries, to give a sense of what can be done. Architects described the center as a building for the whole person, mind and body.

"We're looking at a facility that offers something for kids, for families, for singles," said architect John Meadows of Boora. "It can be a hub in the Valley, where people come together."

The aquatics center could have an eight-lane pool, a spa and sauna, locker rooms, birthday party rooms, water slides, a section with a water current, a tot area and decks.

The recreation center could have a two-court gym, fitness room, three-lane walking and jogging track, climbing wall, indoor playground for young children and activity room.

A community commons could feature a casual-activity lounge, a teen social area, meeting room, child care and food service.

"It's a big idea in this project to have some kind of community hearth," said Boora architect Brian Jackson.

The library, at about 20,000 square feet, would nearly triple the space the Mendenhall Valley library now has in the Mendenhall Mall. Architects envision an open, light-filled, welcoming place with niches for young children and teens, places for quiet studies, meeting rooms, self check-out kiosks and maybe an Internet cafe.

In earlier information-gathering sessions, said library consultant Drew Harrington of Eugene, Ore., "What we heard pretty clearly was the importance of just general growth - more collections, more audio/visual, better seating, more variety. ... Places you would really kick back."

The city's Web site, www.juneau.org, includes a page about the project and an opportunity to comment on priorities. Look under "news items."



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