A decades-old dilemma over an aquatic facility is once again bubbling up in Brooklyn Park.
It’s not the first time the Hennepin County city of nearly 80,000 has looked into getting a community pool of some sort — or the second, or third.
But the subject is again stirring debate at City Hall, where City Council members on Monday approved a $54,000 feasibility study to take a new look at options and price tags.
An aquatic facility could appear on the ballot this fall as part of a park bond referendum. Voters shot down a similar referendum in 1994.
“Sink or swim, the voters are going to decide what happens,” Mayor Jeff Lunde said. “Residents can have a say once and for all.”
Over the years, the aquatic question has prompted studies, surveys, task forces and several attempts at public-private partnerships, Brooklyn Park documents show. As early as 1980, city officials looked at including a pool as part of the community center, but the amenity was dropped from plans.
Without a city-owned pool, Brooklyn Park’s aquatic programs have been held at nearby schools, creating a long waiting list for swimming lessons, according to city staffers. Residents say they often go to neighboring suburbs like Maple Grove and Brooklyn Center to swim.
“People are going swimming every day,” Lunde said. “They’re just going somewhere else.”
City leaders say the time felt right to revisit the issue, based on feedback gathered last year as part of the Parks and Recreation System Plan.
Community surveys from the plan showed that the appetite for an aquatic center remains high in Brooklyn Park, with residents naming it a top priority among park amenities that the city lacks.
The feasibility study, led by Minneapolis-based 292 Design Group, will dig into design options, construction and operating costs. “The hesitation is that we don’t actually have concrete numbers,” Council Member Susan Pha said. “We like the idea of the pool, but what is that really going to cost us?”
The study will explore two main options: Adding a facility onto the existing community activity center at 5600 85th Av. N., or pursuing a public-private partnership for a location elsewhere.
Early estimates place the cost of the community center option at $18 million to $20 million. But the idea of finding a partner has drawn interest at City Hall.
“I wouldn’t support doing this by ourselves. It doesn’t make any money,” Council Member Mark Mata said at Monday’s meeting. “We are surrounded by cities that do have pools.”
City staffers say that a potential partner has already stepped forward. Great Wolf, a Minnesota-based swim team, has proposed building an aquatic center with a competitive, 50-meter pool as well as room for recreation and lessons.
Council Member Lisa Jacobson said a partnership like the one proposed would help set Brooklyn Park apart from its neighbors and draw crowds for swim meets. “I think it’s a win-win potentially,” she said.
Officials plan to gather public input on the aquatic facility in April before city leaders take action in May, said Jody Yungers, director of the city’s recreation and parks department.
Council members could decide to include the facility in the city’s first park bond referendum in two decades.
“We’re in our last debt payment for the 1997 referendum,” Yungers said. “It’s now time to reinvest.”