PERFECT WEATHER – Surfers assess the waves at Sandy Beach this morning. Waves were between 14- and 20-feet today. (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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August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:


On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

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As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

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– The Sitka Sentinel Staff


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Alaska COVID-19 
At a Glance

(updated 11-24-20)

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 12:25 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 578

Total statewide – 27,669

Total (cumulative) deaths – 115

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 619

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

The City of Sitka posted the following update on COVID-19 cases in Sitka as of 5 p.m. Monday.

Active cases in Sitka – 29

Hospitalizations in Sitka – 3

Cumulative Sitka cases – 176 (155 resident; 21 non-resident)

Cumulative recovered – 147 cumulative

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.




November 2000

Photo caption: A painting by the late Dr. Walt Massey hangs on the wall of the Pioneers Home dining room,. bringing smiles from home administrator Julie Smith and Massey’s son Brian and daughter-in-law Amy, the home’s dietary manager. The painting of early-day Sitka was done in 1971, the year Dr. Massey, an optometrist and artist, died. It originally hung in the Canoe Club and was given by the restaurant’s owner, Frank Richards, to local historian Joe Ashby, who gave it to the Pioneers Home.

November 1970

Photo  caption: Sitka High School band director James Hope receives a check for $2,000 from American Legion Post 13 Commander Carroll Kohler. The Legion had voted to contribute $1,000 for uniforms and the Auxiliary voted to match that amount. The check was presented at the Legion’s Veterans Day banquet.