Assembly hears presentation over proposed Skagway Recreation Center renovations

By DAN FOX

EDITOR

A plan has been put before the Borough Assembly regarding an expansion to the Skagway Recreation Center, which would include adding a pool to the facility.

The assembly heard a report on this proposed project at its Feb. 2 meeting, the purpose of which was to report the second-opinion findings on the costs of building a pool add-on, as well as other expansions, onto the rec center.

Past proposals for a pool addition featured several bells and whistles, according to Katherine Nelson, director of the rec center.

What was proposed in the Feb. 2 presentation to the assembly was a streamlined affair. Nelson said a 25-yard, four-lane pool and 30-foot long therapy/learning pool are considered to be the necessity to fulfill basic programming needs in Skagway. The swimming facility would be 10,000 square feet and offer year-round aquatic programming.

Pool talk took up most of the dialogue on Feb. 2, but according to Nelson, the proposal for expansion was originally fueled by the need for enhancements to the non-aquatic facilities.

“We’ve recognized the need for a very long time that we need a larger weight room and more space for serving the younger community,” Nelson said. “We’ve outgrown ourselves a long time ago.”

Beyond the pool, the proposed additions to the rec center include an expanded weight room, a day care/afterschool facility and an additional cardio room.

The plans also include creating a racquetball court out of office space, which could serve as a meeting/activity room.

All told, the estimated cost for the renovations comes in at $16,805,558 if the project were to be completed in one fell swoop. If different aspects of the project were divided up and tackled in separate stages, the total construction price would begin to increase.
Dr. Joshua Coughran, vice-chair of the Pool Ad Hoc Committee, said the add-ons to the facility could potentially be funded by a one percent year-round sales tax.

Funding has been the “big, giant elephant” in the room during the discussion, according to Coughran.

The pool committee developed funding language as a suggestion to the assembly, which could potentially be used on a ballot; their proposal would see a one percent sales tax on retail sales, excluding residential and commercial rent payments, and to seek general obligation bonds to fund such renovations. Coughran said he recently discussed the project with fourth- and fifth-grade students at the Skagway School District.

“It re-energized my passion for this project, being able to see what’s possible and who it might benefit the most,” Coughran said.

Mayor Mark Schaefer said the subject would likely be an agenda item in the future so that the assembly could discuss it and decide how to proceed.

Several residents voiced support for the pool, though many of those did so with some reservations. Tim Bourcy, former Skagway mayor and current chair of the Port Commission, said the rec center has been a huge success. Bourcy added that he supports the idea of a pool expansion.

“With that said, I have concerns about the municipality’s fiscal situation with regards to where we are spending money,” Bourcy said.

Resident Simon Vansintjan said, as someone who lives in Skagway year-round, he would be happy to pay higher taxes to fund the pool expansion.

“The rec center is hands-down what is going to keep us in town,” said Vansintjan.