Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Skagway makes rec center work


February 17, 2011

As MRV Architects of Juneau proceeds with a study to measure demand for a potential Haines community recreation center, the Skagway Recreation Center is entering its second decade.

"Although it is highly unlikely that user fees alone will ever be able to cover the cost it takes to maintain and run the facility, our elected officials continue to support us in every way possible," said Katherine Nelson, Skagway Recreation Center director. "We are so thankful to have such an incredible resource in a town of only 860 residents."

The center is open daily, has a $250 annual membership fee for individuals and features group fitness classes, a gymnasium and 1,700-square-foot climbing wall, a weight room and exercise machines.

"I’m a homeowner in Haines and I chose to spend my first winter in Skagway because of the rec center," Rebecca Hylton said when she visited the center Feb. 7.

The MRV study is examining the old elementary gymnasium and adjoining classroom space in Haines. The Municipality of Skagway faced a similar situation more than a decade ago.

"The building itself was actually the old school gymnasium and was most likely going to be disposed of in the late 1990s," Nelson said. "Volunteers in the community were using it to (inline skate) and do yoga classes, as well as house a day-care facility. When the rumor that it might be torn down got out, volunteers formed a committee to salvage the building, with a vision to build a community recreation center."

Former Mayor John Mielke dedicated the not-for-profit health and fitness facility to the community in 2001. Since then, the center has grown from an operating budget of $56,415 to the $338,566 proposed for fiscal year 2011.

"It’s a tough process," Nelson said. "It’s a really hard endeavor to get the whole community behind the taxpayers paying for something like this, but it’s worth it."

The most recent budget lists salaries, $189,537; employee payroll expenses, $70,029; utilities, $45,000; repairs and maintenance, $15,000; contract labor, $7,000; administration, $5,000; equipment, $4,000; and travel/training, $3,000.

Nelson’s budgets also list capital projects, ranging from $30,000 to $280,000 annually, with an average of about $90,000 for fiscal years 2001 to 2009. No money was slated for capital projects in 2010 and 2011.

Nelson said user fees and property and sales tax revenues fund the center, which also has received support from the cruise ship industry.

The full-time director position was created in fiscal year 2001. A part-time assistant position was added in 2002, and the job became full-time in 2003."As the demand for a wider variety of programs continued to grow, in fiscal year 2003 the municipality approved a contract labor line that allowed for the ability to hire a mixture of teachers to lead both fitness and recreational-type classes and workshops," Nelson said. "Over the years, the continued success of the center led to the need for even more staff to maintain the building and serve the community."

She said employees include two full-time assistants, plus part-time, seasonal assistants and some contract employees.

The center has hosted after-school programs and events such as a brew festival, Halloween carnival, health fairs, garage sales, summer camps and Yuletide.

Some of the upgrades to the facility were a cardiovascular and spinning floor remodeled from an upstairs storage area in 2004, an expanded parking lot in 2005 and the purchase of a karaoke machine in 2007.

Craig Cline of Skagway said the Haines Borough Public Library is "awesome," and he is surprised Haines does not have a recreation center as an amenity. He said the Skagway facility has been popular with local families.

"It would be nice if we had a pool, but, really, in the wintertime, this is an outlet for these kids," Cline said. "My goodness, when you have 50 mph winds and everything, you’ve got to get out."



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