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New aquatic center slated for spring opening

Posted: Thursday, December 23, 2010

The new Dimond Park Aquatic Center is about 80 percent complete and is expected to open in March or April.

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Libby Sterling / Juneau Empire
Libby Sterling / Juneau Empire

The $15-million facility will host a lap pool, leisure pool and hot tub, along with a lazy river and other water features.

Parks and Recreation Director Marc Matsil said he is thrilled with the progress.

"It's an incredibly exciting time," he said. "The pool is literally morphing into a discernible recreation form."

Last week construction crews began pouring concrete into one of the pools and the interior of the facility is beginning to take shape. Matsil said you can see where the lazy river is going and the slide stairs are installed. He said he is also happy the lap pool will have eight lanes, making it the second pool that size in the state. Matsil said it will be a great place to hold state swim meets.

Other features in the facility will be a sauna and a whirlpool. Matsil said there will be three rooms that can also be used for land activities like aerobics. He also expects programming like Kayak Day or dive-in movies.

Matsil said Dimond Park is one of the first aquatic facilities in the state to use ground source heating, which will lessen the burden of energy costs. He said the Alaska Energy Authority donated $1.5 million to help fund the ground source heat. The ground source heat includes 164 geothermal wells.

"One of the things we're absolutely grateful for is the funding we received," he said. "We had generous support from the Rasmussen Foundation. They donated $500,000 for the lazy river. ... It's a great community collaboration and we're grateful."

Matsil said the lazy river can be used not only for casual fun, but also for low-impact strength building through water walking.

He also is pleased with the collaboration with the school district on the Learn to Swim program, which gives every student the opportunity to learn how to swim. Matsil believes this is especially important in Juneau given the amount of water in the area.

Project manager Catherine Wilkins said construction, which began in 2009, has been going well.

"There's been nothing extraordinarily unusual," she said. "There's been problems, but there's always problems on construction sites."

The building isn't entirely closed up yet, as a section of wall needs to be put in. Wilkins said that is where an addition is going that will house the hot tub's mechanics. The other opening in the building will be windows in the area where the pools are.

On the exterior, the facility needs sidewalks and landscaping, and some siding still needs detailing.

In the interior, more concrete placement and forming will be happening in the next weeks, and then it's the finer details of construction - the tiling, painting, plastering.

While the construction is going on, Parks and Recreation is working on hiring individual pool managers to serve under the aquatic director. Shawn Tucker will be the manager for the new facility. The Augustus Brown Swimming Pool is still looking for a manager.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.



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