The last time the public saw Centennial Hall’s ballroom, it was bustling with hundreds of Juneau Public Market shoppers and vendors. About two months later, the space has been dramatically transformed.
The typical lively music, dancing people or busy conferences that would normally fill the 12,500 square feet of the ballroom has been replaced with the droning sounds of loud machinery and shuffling construction workers in hard hats and yellow vests.
The ballroom is currently undergoing its first comprehensive renovation since it first opened its doors in the early 1980s. Not only is it getting cosmetic changes like new floors, new audio and video equipment, new lighting and paint, but it’s also getting a lot of changes that will be covered up behind walls or hidden after renovations are expected to be completed in early August, according to Lisa EaganLagerquist, the project’s manager.
Some of those changes include less noticeable yet prominent safety and efficiency upgrades like updating the ballroom’s structural frame and adding new power upgrades to support the mechanical systems like new air source heat pumps which EaganLagerquist said will make the building more energy efficient than its previous systems.
EaganLagerquist and Mark Ryder, superintendent of the contracted construction company, Carver Construction, said so far the project is on schedule, save for a larger piece of equipment, one air handling unit, which EaganLagerquist said needed a delivery date and production extension and could affect the schedule.
“We’re going good,” Ryder said. “We’re mostly still in demo mode and it’s going well.”
With the nearly eight-month-long closure to the venue, places across Juneau are welcoming events that would normally utilize Centennial Hall. Places like the Juneau Arts and Culture Center and Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall have largely taken the front on inviting those events instead, according to Katie Koester, director of the City and Borough of Juneau Engineering and Public Works Department.
“We know it can be an inconvenience,” she said.
According to Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale, the ballroom renovation was needed for the safety and structure of the ballroom but is not necessarily a precursor to the Capital Civic Center, a proposed idea to combine Centennial Hall with a new arts and culture center that could cost up to an estimated $75 million.
In December 2021 the Assembly approved $2 million to go toward the next phase of the design that would combine the two centers, however, Hale said currently the Assembly is on hold and still waiting to hear more about the design phase.
“The work that is being done to the hall is designed to just be work that just had to happen regardless if the expansion happens or not,” Hale said. “It’s not something being pushed forward right now, but it is a priority.”
The funds for the ongoing ballroom project come from a 2019 voter-approved ballot proposition to add a 2% increase in the city’s hotel bed tax for 15 years to go toward improvements to Centennial Hall, along with another proposition that OK’d $7 million in debt to finance the repairs to Centennial Hall.
The budget for the ballroom renovation project was capped at $8 million by the Assembly when it appropriated funds for it. So far, the project is expected to come in under that, Koester said.
Koester said the construction contract was awarded to Carver Construction at $6.2 million, and the remaining budget funds will go toward things like design, project management and contingencies.
According to Kathleen Harper,Centennial Hall manager, the ballroom is already booked beginning in early September and as long as the renovations stay on time, events are lined up all throughout the fall.
“We’re constantly booked,” she said.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.