Sports clubs want piece of facility pie

$4 million in state funds available for valley recreation center

Posted: Friday, May 26, 2006

In an ideal scenario, Juneau sports clubs would like to someday have an artificial-turf soccer field and basketball courts under the same roof in a new center that's being eyed for the Mendenhall Valley.

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But there may be room for just one.

About $4 million appropriated by the state is available for a valley recreation center that is expected to be used for field sports, such as soccer, and possibly batting cages. Representatives of other sports clubs, such as basketball and wrestling, however, are wondering if they can have a slice of the pie.

The bill that includes the funding states it shall be given to the Juneau Community Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports the Juneau Soccer Club, as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Alaska and United Way.

"I think HoopTime's official position is that we would love to be involved in discussions concerning design, engineering, construction and maintaining some type of a recreation facility," said the club's incoming president, Daryl Miller.

What Juneau activities should the Mendenhall Valley Recreation center support?Respond at JuneauBlogger.com/VOXBOX here...

HoopTime runs basketball leagues for school children in grades five through eight, with about 150 participants. Each season presents a challenge to find spare courts to practice and play.

Schools are given first preference for local courts, then the city leagues and, finally, the nonprofits such as HoopTime, Miller said. A downtown court upstairs in the aging Terry Miller Legislative Office Building is often the club's only option.

"It's really fun to put an eighth-grade boys' team of about 10 to 15 players and an eighth-grade girls' team of about 12 to 14 players on that court and expect coaches to run two simultaneous practices," Miller said.

Three other sports clubs - the Crimson Bears Wrestling, another wrestling club named Tornados and the Southeast Roadrunners - joined HoopTime this year in lobbying the state for an indoor court facility.

"We will do whatever the legislative intent for the appropriation is," said Reed Stoops, president of the Juneau Community Foundation.

Stoops said he has not met with the board of directors or Juneau's legislative delegation to discuss plans and learn more details about the appropriation.

"In the meantime, we would certainly be happy to include anybody that we reasonably can for the amount that is available," Stoops said.

Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau, who sits on the House Finance Committee, was instrumental in getting the $4 million for the center.

"The whole intent here was to give this money to the Juneau Community Foundation to get a covered facility for the kids in Juneau and visitors to come to Juneau," he said.

He added that the curse of having money during times of a budget surplus is that groups begin fighting for it.

City Manager Rod Swope said he would be willing to talk with the Juneau Community Foundation to see if they would share a portion of that money with HoopTime or accommodate the club with its planned facility.

"That would be the perfect situation, if they would be willing to share the money and if the site was large enough to accommodate both facilities. But I don't know if that's the case," Swope said.

A section of Dimond Park may be adequate for the Juneau Community Foundation's center, but it would depend on the size of the project, Swope said.

The city manager said it would be even harder to locate another parcel for a basketball center.

"We were really hard-pressed to come up with this," he said.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com.



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