Farmington's outdoor pool has been a fixture in the community for more than four decades. Now, the city is preparing a plan for what comes next when the pool reaches the end of its life span.
"Pools don't last forever," said Parks and Recreation Director Randy Distad. "And getting 43 years out of the existing pool is a pretty good benchmark. I guess it's just a testament to the way it's been maintained and taken care of that it's lasted this long."
Serving about 13,000 people last year through programs, events, open swim and swimming lessons, the pool is a central part of the community. It features 1-meter and 3-meter diving boards, a wading pool, a drop slide, funbrellas and shade structures — all added to the pool over the years.
"It's a draw for people," said Farmington Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission Chairman David McMillen. "It's a destination spot in Farmington."
The Farmington City Council directed the advisory commission to explore options for extending the life of the current pool or starting over with a new one with updated features. The commission's plan will give the pool up to five years before updating or replacing it, as well as a backup plan in case the pool fails before then.
"After five years, anything could happen," Distad said. "It's time to start looking at preparing a plan for the future."
The commission's goal is to keep operating costs of a new facility the same as the current ones: roughly $50,000 paid annually by the city through taxpayer dollars and $70,000 collected through fees and charges paid by pool users.
The construction budget of a new pool is estimated to be $3.5 million to $4 million, a figure the commission says is "just an attempt by staff to show that there's a cost there," although a consultant has not yet evaluated the project or offered a solid number.
"If the current pool is replaced with a new facility, to get a nice facility, there's going to be a cost to that," Distad said.
The commission favors moving the pool site from the south side of town at Evergreen Knoll Park to a more central site like Jim Bell Park and Preserve, closer to where the population has grown in recent years, he said.
"I think if we identify a more centralized place, that would be more of a draw for people to get to the pool," McMillen said.
He added that because of the location, some residents don't even know the pool is there.
"They would know where it is," McMillen said. "We definitely need to have a pool in town to keep our current residents engaged in city activities, and increase attraction for future residents."
At a May 1 meeting of the commission, members discussed several options, including doing nothing and waiting until the pool fails; continuing repairs on the mechanical and sanitation systems until the pool fails; staying in the current location and making significant upgrades; constructing a new pool; or removing the existing pool and replacing it with a splash pad or spray ground where "kids could still run around and get cooled off, but you don't have to worry about the depth of water or drowning," Distad said.
New features that the commission discussed this month include trail connections, a water slide, a zero-depth entry, an oversized pool deck space, play areas for volleyball or a grass play area, and a bathhouse to include a concession stand, party room and a warming house for outdoor rinks.
They also discussed a lap area, swim instruction area, a play structure in a zero-depth area, a lazy river, a flow rider, funbrellas, a zip line, and lily pads, among other features, according to a city document.
"The new facility would have to accommodate families," Distad said. "It would also have to have features that are attractive for people to come to the pool."
The commission is expected to discuss options with the City Council this summer. Distad added that the pool would still be built at the "right size" for Farmington, and would not aim to compete with larger facilities like those in Apple Valley and Eagan.
The commission also aims to make the new pool more inviting to seniors and children, McMillen said.
Although the pool could be a potential draw for people outside of the community, its significance lies within Farmington. "It's a great place where community is built," Distad said, "where people around Farmington can come to one location and meet other families, other parents. That kind of socialization aspect builds the community."