After 50 years of creating memories, Juneau’s Augustus Brown Swimming Pool is under renovation

After 50 years of creating memories, Juneau’s Augustus Brown swimming pool is under renovation
Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 6:35 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The Augustus G. Brown Swimming Pool in Juneau isn’t just any regular old pool — it’s been a staple in the community for 50 years. First opening its doors in 1973, the pool is an institution to many Juneau residents, a place to swim, exercise and socialize. While the pool is closed for the rest of the year for some major renovations, some of its longtime patrons are sharing what the facility means to them.

Barbara Thompson moved to Juneau in 1981 and said the pool totally changed her life.

”I was young, I didn’t mind jumping in a swimsuit and being seen by everybody and it was fun and I got real exercise,” Thompson said.

“As I’ve aged, I’ve continued to go back to the pool and I’m now going for water aerobics. And there is a good core of women and men who come to the water aerobics classes to ... feel good, to give your joints a break by having exercise in the water, to be more flexible, get some balance. And then you catch up with people in the pool and learn about the community, what’s going on.”

Fellow pool patron Peter Metcalfe credits his time at the pool learning to swim for potentially saving his life in 1982. Metcalfe was digging for clams with his hunting partners in a remote area of Alaska when he looked up and discovered their skiff floated away from shore.

“Neither my companions could swim and so I stripped down to my long underwear and jumped in and had to swim past ice floes and I would have never done that had I not been confident in my swimming,” he explained. “Had I not got to that skiff, I really don’t think we could have survived.”

Renovations were supposed to start in 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city postponed the project. Then once planning started back up again, so did the costs.

“They were basically looking at some of the big things such as plumbing, electrical, heating, that really just had to be done, and a lot of the cosmetic renovations had been cut because of budget,” said Terra Patterson, the pool’s aquatics manager.

Fortunately, the city was able to come up with additional funding, which meant plans for renovating the pool were back on track, with both locker room and lobby renovations in store.

“Given the city’s generosity and putting forward a little bit more money on the project, we’re actually able to get to really spruce the place up quite a bit,” pool supervisor Christopher Barte said.

Barte explained how they were able to still keep some of the old design of the locker room, including artistic tiles made in 1999 by Juneau second and third graders.

“We were able to launch a revision of that, getting young Juneau community members to create their own artwork and submit that ... and got a local artist to create a new installation, which before the old tiles got destroyed, went around and got some high-resolution photographs for reproducing them,” Barte said. “So they’re going to do kind of a fusion of the old art and the new art and an installation that we can keep for the community.”

If everything goes as planned, the new pool should open in early 2024. For Juneau residents, it’s a date that can’t get here soon enough.

“It was obvious within a couple of weeks of being in Juneau how much this facility means to the community,” Patterson said.

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