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'JeanDome' may open by end of year

Homely today, homey tomorrow in John Nelson Park. -
Homely today, homey tomorrow in John Nelson Park.
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It may not look like much today – even “utilitarian” might be a compliment.

But park officials see, if not beauty, potential charm in a spare metal building at John Nelson Park, which should be ready for use as a recreation center by the end of this year.

The Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District board Thursday approved a $26,000 remodel, to make the building suitable for aerobics classes, kindergym, martial arts and other activities.

“The opportunity is golden,” said Jean Welch, supervisor of sports programming for the district.

The renovation will be the first phase of planned improvements at the five-acre park, which sits off Highway 305 north of the winery.

The property served for decades as a city public works yard, but is now under the control of the park district through a long-term lease.

The 240-square-foot metal building went up in 1987, and was used for vehicle maintenance, storage and other activities.

Designs presented Thursday by island architect John Rudolph show the revamped facility with a large general purpose room, kitchen and restrooms on the ground floor, and locker rooms, office space and a viewing area on a smaller mezzanine.

Improvements will include new flooring and fixtures.

As to the building’s sad facade, the large bay doors will be replaced with a new entryway and windows. Rudolph also recommended some trellises and a coat of paint.

“We can humanize what is now a rather homely building,” he said.

Welch and acting district director John DeMeyer urged approval of the remodel, citing a need for space for youth gymnastics and other programs.

The crunch is compounded by the imminent loss of the “rug gym” and other spaces in the Commodore Center, parts of which will be demolished by the school district this summer.

“We really need the space,” Welch said. “We’re turning children away for gymnastics.”

The high ceiling will allow the installation of such gym apparatus as uneven bars and beams, she said.

The project will be paid for out of current revenues, DeMeyer said, and should pay for itself with new classes and programs the district will be able to offer.

Park board commissioner Dave Shorett has informally dubbed the metal building the “JeanDome” in Welch’s honor.

Permits permitting, the renovation work will be done over the summer by the park district’s building and grounds crew.

Future phases could see construction of a second, larger building for sports and cultural activities, and other park amenities.

A caretaker residence is also planned, once several dilapidated and ivy-covered houses on the property are torn down.

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