Centennial Hall renovations are still in the conceptual phase

    Photo credit to Jasz Garrett/KINY

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - At the weekly Chamber luncheon Thursday, the Mckinley Research Group presented their research of the Civic Center Demand Survey Results of market demand and economic impact improvements.

    Of note to Juneau is the Centennial Hall study.

    Susan Bell is the Senior Consultant.

    She detailed the current renovation plan as of now.

    "The facility has this envisioned. The upgraded ballroom, a community hall that would be very similar to what we have with the JAHC, upgraded meeting rooms, a 299-seat theater, and an expanded area for an extended lobby. The facility that we use now at Centennial Hall, many intermittent events, or even planned events are where you really have to think my agenda has to be designed around this facility. If I'm going to have meetings, if I'm going to have a banquet, how am I going to do it at this facility? So some of the things that this does, this vision, which design is still underway, will help us attract larger events, some concurrent use of the facility, and also just more efficient use of time and space."

    Bell was asked by News of the North what upgrades they expect will attract the most people to the hall.

    "The meeting room expansion, one of the small meeting rooms is really treated like a hallway, it's not really used as a meeting room. So I think for that segment whether local attendees have a better match between meeting rooms. The Symphony uses the high school, and other groups use the high school, but the primary purpose of our schools, and a lot of performances are happening in churches, are to have other uses that are in primary of their missions. We do talk to facility managers. There is an interest really where you can control your experience."

    The theater is still in the works. The feedback they've had so far is the small seating capacity of 299 is described as difficult to make profitable, and the stage is too small for symphony and "main stage" events and some dance performances. As of now, there's no orchestra pit or acoustic shell.

    Bob Banghart is the Executive Director of The Partnership. He responded to a luncheon attendee's question about a financial projection.

    "We're at what we'll consider conceptual phase right now. So we don't really have much more than a footprint of the building. We're not even into our mechanical structure to operational facility management processes, so we don't know what it's going to cost in real terms."

    Factors being considered are utilities, personnel, and facility costs.

    Other research being conducted by McKinley Research Group, Bell said, includes market demand and feasibility of space.

    She said they need insight from more people.

    "We need insights from people. Alaska travel industry folks, part of it was when we were looking at those comparable facilities and wanted to also get a sense not only of their employment and their revenue and their expenditures but also the nature of some of the groups they were hosting; what kind of marketing budgets they have for their community."

    President and CEO of Travel Juneau Liz Perry commented on their part in the Centennial Hall study.

    "Our part in the process has been to give the Alliance and the architects information regarding the number of breakout rooms that meeting planners are looking for; the size of spaces that they're looking for, as well as amenities. Amenities in any kind of meeting space are becoming more and more important, especially the availability of IT and AV equipment. So we have been working hand in hand with all of the planners and the architects to make sure that they have the information they need to put the schematics together."

    Bell added to non-resident spending.

    "Part of our work was to not only look at the facility itself and its revenue, and get what this expansion and upgrade might mean. But to look more broadly, particularly at that in our lens here is really the non-resident spending. That new money coming into our town, particularly valuable in the fall, winter, and spring months. But annually, by year five, we get enough big differences between year one and year five, so I just thought I'd go to the bigger one, 7 million annually from nonresident spending, a lot of that is on hotel rooms, but certainly some of that money flows from event organizers."

    Bell gave a snapshot of attendance data in past years.

    "The total event days at Centennial Hall in 2018 and 19 pre-COVID were 160 and 169. Obviously, you can see that they dropped quite a bit and we used Centennial Hall for different purposes. Even in 2017, we had 172 events in Centennial Hall. We were able to look at this because we got great data. Weekday, and weekend use percentage of who rented the facility, what was estimated attendance, what percentage we think was local or not board or non-resident use. Similarly, we did an analysis of what was going on at the JAHC, you can see 174 events in 2018. 170 in 2019. So both heavily used facilities, and also for the JAHC, in 2017 was 190 events. They vary from year to year, what's happening locally, what's happening with conferences and events that we're able to book. And this next slide, I think, is really important to keep in mind. In 2019, we estimated that 91% of the use was local. Some of the larger events that use Centennial Hall include the Folk Festival, the public market, celebration, of course, every other year."

    Centennial Hall events are booked out to 2026, Bell said, "you can see we are getting back on track."

    Above: The November 2022 design of the first floor. Below: The November 2022 second-floor design. Photos are courtesy of McKinley Research. The JAHC is being considered to be connected to Centennial Hall under one roof.

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