GRAB AND GO - Library patron Tina Johnson, left, and Joanna Perensovich, information services librarian, wear masks in the Sitka Library this afternoon. The library no longer has couches for patrons, but does have computer desks widely spaced apart for people to access for one-hour periods. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Newer, Brighter Hames Center Open for Fitness

Sentinel Staff Writer

The Hames Center received 376 visits by 131 patrons in its first week in operation following a three-month closure in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Roger Schmidt reported the figures Monday, along with precautions the Hames Center is taking to keep gym users safe. A full list of the precautions can be found at

The facility is Sitka’s only public workout facility. Schmidt is the executive director of Alaska Arts Southeast Inc. which owns and manages most of the Sheldon Jackson campus. 

Alaska Arts Southeast Inc. also operates the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, which canceled summer classes in April.

“We’re really taking seriously how to reopen the gym as safely as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schmidt said. 

The proactive steps for reopening Hames include a new, cashless payment system, limited hours of operation, and disinfecting stations placed throughout the cardio loft.

The gym floor remains closed unless used for specific classes.

Pickleball games are available in the gym during select hours every weekday.

Schmidt said the reopening of Hames is possible in part because of changes made during the facility’s closure.

“The Hames Center has been open almost continuously ... for nine and a half years,” he said. “While we were closed, we took the opportunity to do a deep clean of the gym and to reduce the clutter so we can clean more easily.”

This, Schmidt says, has meant the removal of nonessential objects and surfaces, making the disinfecting process easier for staff members, who clean between shifts.

But even with a cleaner setup, the gym is still making adjustments, he said.

The locker rooms are still off-limits to patrons, who are expected to arrive dressed for their workouts in the second floor fitness gym.

Mary Beth Nelson exercises at the Hames Center while wearing a mask recently. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Traffic numbers indicate that the restrictions have not deterred users from coming back.

The numbers are still not equal to the visits prior to the pandemic closure, but Schmidt said he is pleased with the way things are going.

“We’re not ready to be back at full speed,” he said.

The operating hours are 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., noon to 2 p.m., and 5 p.m.-7 p.m, with one staff member on duty on each shift.

Schmidt said that during the closure, the center had a lot of help from young people.

“We have a lot of kids that aren’t able to go to camp this summer or do other things,” he said. “We hired a crew of them – seven of them – to help us with (the Hames cleanup) project.”

Their primary work was painting the interior walls. The new paint underscores the architecture of the building, Schmidt said.

“It’s a really simple new look that accentuates some of the features of the building, like the beam construction,” he said.

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-10-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of noon Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 51

Total statewide – 1,323

Total (cumulative) deaths – 17

Active cases in Sitka – 5 (2 resident; 3 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 13 (11 resident; 2 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 80.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 




Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020



For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

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