Moore gives pool study an Alaskan’s insight

David Moore hadn’t been in the Skagway Rec. Center since he graduated from high school in the “new gym” in 1979. Except for added insulation and a new floor, it hadn’t changed much.
Moore, now an architect from Anchorage who has worked on pool projects in Alaska, recently volunteered his time to advise the Parks and Recreation Committee and the Recreation Board.
After a walk-around with Recreation Board chair Dennis Bousson on Jan. 18, Moore gave his views on the recent DeMars proposal for upgrading the facility and adding a swimming pool.
“I don’t think Skagway with its population by itself can support this, so you’ll need outside help,” Moore told members of the two committees.

From left, Rec. Board chair Dennis Bousson, architect David Moore, and Park and Rec. chair Mike Korsmo check out a picture of the Nikiski pool on Moore's computer. JB

Among his suggestions for making a pool work in Skagway:
• Pool structure- Moore advised against a pre-engineered metal structure for the pool building - such structures make it difficult to control moisture and condensation. The best construction is concrete block or masonry.
• Pool tank - Moore said the best tanks for Alaska are made of reinforced concrete, not aluminum. In the past ten years, he said, seven or eight aluminum pools in Alaska have failed. Although the up-front cost of concrete is more, they do last a lot longer and are easier to maintain.
• Filtration - Moore recommended PVC piping and a separate filtration room, although the heating of the pool could be tied to an existing boiler room.
• Operation costs - “The key is not making a bad decision up front,” Moore said. For example, Craig recently put an aluminum pool in a steel building to save money, and it is beset with problems two years later. One sure way to save money is not to have a deep end for diving, he noted. If you have 50 percent more water to heat and treat than for a standard 3-to-4-foot-deep pool, then the cost is that much higher.
• Water slide versus diving board - Successful pools have water slides, Moore said. A pool that he remodeled in Nikiski (from aluminum to concrete) is making money two years later, mainly on revenue from visitors who like its slide and other amenities. It also has a kid’s section with a “bubble bench” and “rain umbrella”. Another amenity that works well for drawing users is an on-deck hot tub (parents are more likely to swim with their kids if a hot tub is on-deck). One popular pool-side fixture, diving boards, however, result in 75 percent of all pool accidents and raise insurance rates, he cautioned.
• Location, location - After looking at the DeMars plans, Moore advised against locating the pool building on the west side of the Rec. Center near Main Street. If the pool stands a chance of drawing visitors, then it must be on State Street, the main route through town. He liked the DeMars design for a central entryway for both pool and recreation center facilities, but suggested separate locker rooms. Pool locker rooms should always be near the shallow end of a pool, and Moore also suggested having small family rest rooms, in addition to men’s and women’s.
After looking at DeMars’ estimated costs for the combined recreation center - pool facility ($2.5 million), Moore said the square footage rates used by the California firm were too low for Alaska. “I don’t think the cost numbers in here ($45-$50 a sq. ft.) are realistic,” he said.
But Moore has built pools for $3 million in Alaska, notably the Nikiski pool. Board members took down the name and number of the director of that pool, which serves a population similar to that of Skagway, and they may have a conference call with her in the future.
“Right now we are using you as a source, and we need to look at a lot more sources,” said Parks and Rec. Committee Chair Mike Korsmo.
Council member Stan Selmer said he will get more information about the Craig pool. They also hope to draw information from the Department of Environmental Conservation, which regulates pools.
Moore said he will forward to the board a method of projecting maintenance costs, since that is the main concern of residents. He suggested that the next step for the board is to establish a “standard of quality” for the pool Skagway needs.
“I learned a lot today,” said board member Nan Saldi. “We need to find what we need to do.”