Valley recreation center could cost $22 million

Posted: Tuesday, November 28, 2000

A feasibility study has put a $22 million price tag on a recreation complex in the Mendenhall Valley's Dimond Park. The study was presented at a Juneau Assembly work session Monday evening.

The study for a 70-acre parcel off Riverside Drive that includes Riverbend Elementary School and a proposed high school presents a preliminary plan for a two-court gymnasium, a fitness center, a jogging and walking track, community rooms, lap and recreation pools, a climbing wall, locker rooms, administration offices and other amenities.

The components were arrived at through an assessment of community needs by a 12-member committee of citizens and The Sports Management Group, an Oakland, Calif., consultant hired in 1999, said Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer.

"Our phone surveys and surveys by the League of Women Voters helped us determine what the components of the facility would be," said Kiefer, also a member of the Dimond Community Center Planning Committee.

Kiefer stressed that both costs and components as presented are preliminary.

The committee inventoried existing public and private facilities, including school gyms, the Augustus Brown swimming pool, publicly available meeting facilities and private fitness centers, as well as the corresponding costs of rentals and membership.

The consultants developed hypothetical entry fees in order to identify revenue potential, the study says. Children and seniors would pay $5 to get in.

Criteria used for selecting components included identifying activities and programs that are under-served in the community, identifying spaces that would serve the needs of the greatest number of users, and recovering costs, according to the study.

Predicted income would cover, on average, 87 percent of operational costs, the study says. The city would have to provide a $215,000 subsidy during the facility's first year of operation.

Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce compared that with the current 50 percent subsidy for the city swimming pool and a 10 percent subsidy for Eaglecrest Ski Area.

Proximity of the facility to Riverbend school and a new high school could serve both schools well, Kiefer said.

"With the two-court gym, for example, you could have a high school PE class on one court and a (children's gym class) on the other." And swimming classes could once again be made available to elementary students, she said.

Juneau schools Superintendent Gary Bader expressed concern at Monday's meeting that school affiliation with the project might force the district to pick up some of the tab. He worried "the school district might be asked to fund unfunded operational costs."

Kiefer said that wouldn't happen and that the school district would be asked to pay only what it does now for use of city facilities.

Assembly member Marc Wheeler asked whether the complex might be built in phases, beginning with the swimming pool. Wheeler had campaigned for his assembly seat in part on the issue of building a pool in the Mendenhall Valley.

Catherine Fritz, the city's chief architect, responded that an initial phase could cost between $16 million and $18 million, since it would have to include structures for administration and for other components that would come into use later, such as the lobby.

The aquatics portion of the project is also the most expensive per square foot, she said.

Fritz added that phasing can add 10 percent to a project's cost.

The assembly appropriated $50,000 this year to pay for getting the study's findings out to the public and for holding public hearings on the project beginning in January, Kiefer said.

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