The project manager for a study on a proposed Haines Borough recreation center at the old elementary school said initial results suggest “it was a better solution to go ahead and think about a new building.”

“We identified that there were some limitations toward using the existing facility for some of the needs that were identified,” said Corey Wall of MRV Architects in Juneau, who coordinated a “programming” study of potential usage at the facility.

Wall interviewed representatives from the Chilkat Valley Community Foundation, Chilkat Valley Preschool, Community Youth Development, Haines Borough School District, Hammer Museum, Seibukan Jujutsu of Haines, and Well and Fit Community Council to hear their ideas for the building.

According to a May 10 memo on completed work, “The question of who is going to run and maintain the facility is an important one. Of all the user groups identified and interviewed, only the Well and Fit group appeared to be ready and excited to staff and run the facility.”

Wall noted the gym floor is a few feet too narrow for regulation basketball games.

“The primary asset of the existing facility appears to be the gymnasium,” the report said. “The gym is one of only three large sports-activity spaces in the borough, and there was a great deal of community desire expressed to retain this facility as a gym.”

Three options presented by MRV for the gym and adjoining classrooms all suggested housing a recreation center and borough offices. The Chilkat Valley Preschool, “currently the major tenant in the Human Resources Building, which has major deferred maintenance issues,” then would move into the current borough office building.

Three negatives of the elementary building were its low ceilings, poor acoustics for performing arts, and the need for soundproofing the second-floor offices from the noise below.

“From our perspective, I think that it’s terrific that you’re proceeding with planning for a new facility in that location,” Wall said. “A lot of the work that we did with the initial programming probably led to the conclusion that tearing down the existing building was a good step.”

MRV also prepared a site plan and two floor plans.

With the MRV work halted, manager Earnest said the next step for a community or recreation center is a “request for qualifications” to help with planning.

“A consultant/contractor would put together a full package for the borough that would take the work that has been done by MRV and then advance that to include feasibility, assessment, it would look at our other borough-owned facilities, and try to find cost-savings from consolidation and elimination, perhaps, of some buildings from the inventory,” Earnest said.

Wall said the MRV study likely would have transitioned into an analysis of a new facility, following the initial report that “explored the limitations of the existing school and discovered that it wasn’t going to meet the community needs.”

“That information is usable, however the project proceeds,” he said. “I think you’ve got a very good first step towards a future facility, whoever does the planning process.”