New Juneau visitor’s center gets sunny welcome

The new downtown Visitor's Center

The new downtown Visitor's Center. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

Juneau finally has a full-fledged visitor’s center on its downtown waterfront to welcome the nearly one-million cruise ship passengers who flock to the Capital City every summer.

Port Director Carl Uchytil made it official this morning (Friday) at a sun-soaked ribbon cutting ceremony.

“On behalf of the City and Borough of Juneau, we hereby open the downtown visitor’s center,” Uchytil shouted before having some difficulty cutting through the ribbon.

The center will be managed by the Juneau Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, which also has an information kiosk downtown, near Marine Park. The bureau used to have a visitor’s center in the old downtown ferry terminal building. President and CEO Lorene Palmer says the new facility is much more visible, and will provide a better workplace for JCVB’s 130 local volunteers.

People's Wharf Seal

In the new visitor's center a seal in the middle of the floor commemorates the location's history when the location was the downtown ferry terminal. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

“This is where you would get information on maps, answer questions about where’s the post office, and often public restrooms, where’s wifi?,” Palmer says. “But other things that our volunteers do is give people suggestions on how to spend their time in Juneau.”

Palmer says the goal is to get cruise ship passengers who are only visiting for eight to 12 hours to come back and spend several days in the Capital City.

The visitor’s center is located in a new plaza just north of the Mt. Roberts Tram building. Architects Jensen Yorba Lott designed it with a nod to Juneau’s maritime history. Diamond-shaped siding on the outside is meant to represent salmon scales. Exposed wood beams inside evoke the keel of a boat. In the lobby, a seal marks the spot where the M/V Flosie used to depart to ferry passengers from Juneau to Douglas, before completion of the bridge.

The visitor’s center and nearby Port-Customs building were built with $8-million in local marine passenger fees. The project took about two years to complete.