Edina's aerobics-loving seniors can relax: It appears that the pool at Edinborough Park will be saved.
Parks and Recreation leaders are ignoring a consultant's recommendation to fill the pool and create a play area for toddlers, an idea aimed at recouping more of the park's operating costs.
Instead, they propose to renovate the pool and its tiny locker rooms, install energy-efficient lighting, get rid of many of the park's plants and make the pool the official home of the Edina Swim Club. That would bring in more than $48,000 in new money each year.
The proposal is scheduled to go to the City Council on July 17.
Irate seniors who since February have pelted the council with letters and petitions to save the pool likely will be present at the council meeting, as they were at last week's Park Board session. Rita Acker and her friends were wearing white T-shirts printed with green life preservers and S.O.S. for "Save Our Space."
While Acker's fellow aerobics enthusiast, Jan Stone, said she was thrilled with the Park Board's apparent support for keeping the pool, Acker said she is withholding judgment until she sees the council vote.
"They're so worried about money, why aren't they worried about people," she said. "It sounds like they support [the pool]. But it's not done yet."
Edinborough Park, at 7700 York Av. S., has the junior Olympic-sized pool, a running track edged with exercise equipment, play areas for kids, a 250-seat amphitheater and trails lined with more than 6,000 plants. Admission is free, but visitors must pay to get into certain areas of the park, including the pool and track.
This year, the park is expected to generate less than $1.2 million in revenue while costing $1.6 million. The number of visitors went up a few years ago when Adventure Peak, with tube slides and a climbing wall, was added.
Consultant Ballard*King Associates said revenue could increase again if the pool was filled in and areas for parties and new kids' attractions were added. The pool was deemed "one-dimensional" in a world where lap pools are not all that popular.
But seniors rallied around the pool, saying that the extra-warm water and shallow depth is ideal for aerobics classes. Some credited the pool activities with helping them recover from joint replacements and heart surgery.
They pointed out that the city pool is an asset in a city that is a Blue Cross and Blue Shield "do.town" and is supposed to promote exercise among its citizenry. And they charged that Edinborough was being held to a different standard from other city parks that are not expected to turn a profit.
But Edinborough is not like other parks. Parts of it are a jungle jammed with tropical plants, including Norfolk pines that are a quarter-century old, touch the glass ceiling and have to roped up to avoid tipping over.
Under the new proposal, 38 trees and other big plants would be removed. More-efficient lighting would be installed. The lighting changes and a reduction in staffing linked to fewer plants should save about $120,000 a year, officials said.
The lower grotto would be filled in, making that area handicap accessible for the first time and open enough for art exhibits or other features.
The shell of the swimming pool would be replaced, and the pool deck and walls retiled. Two large locker rooms would be created by combining the current men's and women's locker rooms into one and converting a pool storage room into another.
Daily admission rates would go up $1, birthday party rates by $10, and the pool rental fee from $30 per hour to $45 an hour.
The city also would more aggressively advertise the pool, which many users said they found out about only after doctors or friends told them about it.
The park is supported partly through fees charged by three nearby homeowners' associations and a hotel, which allows residents of those places free access to the park. The fee agreements between the associations and the city expire between 2017 and 2021, with a total loss by 2021 of more than $217,000 in annual support.
The associations apparently could voluntarily renew such an agreement if they wanted. At the Park Board meeting, at least one resident said he considers the $15 a month he pays a bargain, and that he would be willing to pay more.
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan