Juneau’s only public indoor track isn’t wheelchair accessible. Advocates want to add an elevator.

a Juneau elevated track
At the Dimond Park Field House, stairs connect the field to a mezzanine and the mezzanine to the track. (Photo courtesy of CBJ)

Accessibility advocates are asking the Juneau Assembly to fully fund a new elevator at the city’s public indoor track.

The Dimond Park Field House has an indoor track above a turf field. School sports teams, Little League, soccer clubs and other groups use it year-round. 

Stairs connect the field to a mezzanine and the mezzanine to the track. There’s no ramp and no elevator. Joan O’Keefe, director of Southeast Alaska Independent Living, or SAIL, said that leaves many people unable to use much of the facility.

“A grandmother called SAIL in tears because she could not climb the stairs to watch her granddaughter compete in Girls on the Run,” O’Keefe wrote in a letter to the Assembly. “A young woman who experiences a physical disability called to voice her frustration as she could not join her friends for socialization and exercise.”

The Assembly’s draft Capital Improvement Plan, which outlines funding and construction priorities for the next several years, includes a request of $450,000 for an elevator. But an updated estimate from the city’s engineering department says it’ll likely cost more than $1 million. 

Now, as the Assembly works on next year’s budget, O’Keefe is asking the Assembly to fund the project fully.

George Schaaf directs the city’s parks and recreation department. He said ADA requirements for the field house are complicated because the city acquired it from a private nonprofit. In private buildings, accessible routes to mezzanines aren’t always required

“If the building were built today, it would require an elevator,” Schaaf said. “A lot of the requirements are triggered at new construction, or if you’re substantially altering a facility, which we’re not doing.”

But Schaaf said he supports adding an elevator, whether or not the city is legally required to.

“We want all of our facilities to be accessible to the community, so I fully support the request that SAIL put in,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

The Assembly Finance Committee will consider the elevator funding as part of its budget process over the next several weeks. Bridget Thomson, SAIL’s Juneau program coordinator, said city leaders have been open to the idea.

“I think, at the end of the day, everybody wants the same exact thing,” she said. “It’s just how do we get the resources to make this happen?”

Other community requests for next year’s budget include funding to add 28 more units to the Juneau Housing First Collaborative’s Forget-Me-Not Manor and replace the Juneau Nordic Ski Club’s snow grooming equipment. The Assembly Finance Committee will discuss the requests at its meeting on Wednesday.

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