A Sneak Peak Of Bethel’s New Fitness Center

The Fitness center, which includes a swimming pool, is set to open in Bethel in November. The project has been in the works for decades and anticipation is building in the community, where no other such facility exists.

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Immediately to the right of the entrance is a food court where healthy snacks will be sold. Straight ahead is the main attraction.

“The main question when I got here is, ‘Is there water in the pool?’ Yes there is water in the pool?” Raunica Ray, the Director of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Regional Aquatic Health & Safety Center, said.

In a town with not much indoor recreation to speak of and where the temperature is below freezing much of the year, the center is an exciting prospect. It’s been in the works for decades. Most people don’t call it by its big, unwieldy name, they just call it “The Pool.”

Actually, there are two pools. The biggest one being, a regulation size pool with six lanes separated by blue and white floats. The larger pool can be used for water sports, both competitive and fun. The smaller pool connected to it is more bout fun; A yellow tube slide leads into the smaller pool. It has sensors that signal kids when the slide is clear and it’s safe to slide. The smaller, more shallow pool has a handicap entry and can also be used for therapy. And a Jacuzzi with state of the art jets for maximum therapy.

The pools and the Jacuzzi are filled with well over 100,000 gallons of water that has to be cleaned. The pool looks like it’s constantly overflowing but it’s really draining into small holes just off the edges. Ray explains where the water goes.

“This right here takes it into the surge tank, goes through the surge tank and then refilters throughout the system. Before it goes back into the system, it goes through an ultraviolet light, which kills everything inside of the water,” Ray said. “After going through that ultraviolet light, then its chlorinated and filtered back into the pool.”

A state of the art cleaning system, says Ray. Going into the next room, she explains the large machines that are constantly humming.

“These right here are sand filtration systems for the main pool,” Ray said. “So we have a set of three of ‘em so that way at all times, water is continuously circulating and we have backup pumps as well.”

All of this seems like it would take a lot of power to run, and it does. But Ray explains a windmill outside provides well over half of the power needed to run the center, while the rest comes from the grid. In the next room, is an emergency generator, in case of a power outage. There are also rooms for yoga, dance classes and a workout room.

Bev Hoffman, of Bethel, has been working to make the Center a reality for years, and she says it’s nice to see a longtime dream come true.

“I kept thinking that it will become a reality but for 30 years it was a dream until 2007, the community started to get behind it,” Hoffman said.

In the early days Hoffman and other community members held bake sales and other fundraisers. More recently, funding the project was made possible through several grants and donations. Around $23 million came from the state. The Rasmuson Foundation and The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation Diabetes Prevention Program both contributed funds for workout equipment.

Managers say they’re still putting the finishing touches on The Center, and it’s on track for a grand opening in November.

Charles Enoch is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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