My Turn: Despite sticker shock, aquatic center is bargain

Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2005

We have a problem. I think it's safe to say that indoor, water-based activities are very important to this community for a variety of good, healthy reasons. Unfortunately, our old friend Augustus Brown stopped meeting these needs long ago.

So, now what do we do? I support the city's proposed solution, the Dimond Park Community Center Aquatic Facility. It's just what the doctor ordered. I'm happy to help pick up the tab with some of my sales tax dollars. This excellent, carefully conceived project is, by far, the best choice for Juneau. We shouldn't settle for less.

These universally popular 21st century pools, like the new one in Whitehorse, are springing up all over the place and offer something for almost everybody. They cleverly combine traditional lap tanks with "water parks" that even nonswimmers and people with mobility problems can enjoy.

The preliminary design calls for a very accessible facility conveniently located next to the new high school, close to several other schools and not far from the university. The cooler lap tank has eight lanes, diving boards and room for cheering crowds. Swimmers, students and competitors are the big winners here. And, at long last, we'll be able to host statewide swimming and diving meets - visitor magnets.

The warmer, shallower second tank with beach-like entry and a "lazy river" is for all ages and abilities. This was the highest-rated item in a recent city survey and should be a revenue machine. Recreation pools bring people back time and time again. The kids will be dancing in the streets on their way to this one.

The capital city has been my home for almost 30 years. My wife and I have raised our son in this cool, damp rain forest and are now working on a grandson. I honestly can't think of a better recreation project for the community - open 12 months a year rain or shine and the least expensive day pass in town. If you want to encourage young families to stay in Juneau this is right up your alley.

Prepare for sticker shock but the estimated construction cost is reasonable for a built-to-last aquatics facility, affordable and worth every cent. It's not the kids' fault these things aren't cheap. Think of this as a prudent investment in an important community asset with a guaranteed return. Generation after generation will enjoy many bangs for these bucks.

I feel passionately that the Dimond Park Aquatic Facility will do more than anything else on the horizon to improve our quality of life. We'll have to build a second pool sooner or later. Why not sooner? We have a golden opportunity to do it right and get this done now before my grandson grows up.

Can't you already see the smiles and hear the laughter?

• David Rogers is a Juneau businessman and attorney. He also is chairman of Citizens for the Dimond Park Pool.

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