Plans for two new community pools in Eden Prairie are taking shape — one of the city’s largest recreation projects in recent years.
The project to upgrade the Eden Prairie Community Center’s 30-year-old pool includes replacing the pool and adding a recreation pool to keep up with growing demand for pool space. But costs to do the major renovation are adding up.
Updated design plans presented to the city last week came in $2.9 million over preliminary budget estimates thanks to more detailed designs as well as added amenities and space. But city officials reassured the public that the project won’t cost taxpayers any extra money.
“We’ve been trying to craft a project that meets all the users’ needs in a realistic way,” said Jay Lotthammer, director of Parks and Recreation.
In an earlier feasibility study, the city projected the two pools and renovations would cost $16.5 million. But last week, staff from HGA Architects presented updated designs, which include added fitness space, doubled spectator seating from 150 to 300 seats, a hot tub and changing the new lap pool from a 12-lane lap pool to two 8-lane lap pools based on community feedback. The new cost: an estimated $19.4 million.
The City Council unanimously approved moving forward with the project, but it’s not the final vote for the project — or actual costs — which could come in March with construction bids.
“This is long overdue,” Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens said at the meeting. “I recognize we’re not approving the project, but we’re getting one step closer.”
Finding the funding
Until then, city leaders reiterated at the Nov. 19 meeting they won’t support increasing taxes to pay for the project.
The Foxjets swimming club, which uses the pool almost every day for practices and says the expansion will give its members more practice time and flexibility, has vowed to raise $500,000 to replace the pool, built in 1983. The city has also applied for a Hennepin County grant of $325,000 that it would put toward the project if it won the grant Dec. 17. Another $2.6 million could come from the city’s capital improvement fund. And the remaining $16 million could be financed by lease revenue bonds and tax abatement bonds. The city says much of existing debt is paid off, so adding the pool project wouldn’t mean increasing taxes.
“There is a capacity to take on this debt and not increase taxes to pay for it,” Lotthammer said. “They [the City Council] understand the costs and they understand the benefits.”
But not everyone sees the benefits. Replacing the pool has long been a contentious request in Eden Prairie, with the community rejecting past public requests for funding.
Eden Prairie resident Donna Azarian spoke out against the project at the City Council meeting, adding in an interview that she would approve of upgrades to bring the current pool up to code and repaired, but not the addition of two new pools with features such as the water slide and hot tub.
“It seems that Eden Prairie is on a spending spree,” she said. “They need to press the pause button and take a step back. It’s just enough already.”
She added that Oak Point Elementary has a pool as do several hotels in Eden Prairie. “It’s nice to want all this stuff, but when push comes to shove, do we really need it?” she said.
The City Council expects to vote on construction bids for both two phases of the pool project by March. If bids are approved, construction on the first phase — the lap pool with a diving area and climbing wall — could start in May and wrap up in summer 2015.
During construction on that addition, the current pool would stay open at the same time and demolition on that for the second phase — a recreational pool with a zero-depth entry area and water slide — would happen in 2015 when the new pool opened.
“Our community pool has served us well for the last 30 years,” Lotthammer said. “[City leaders] look at this as making the decision for the next 30 years.”