The Bloomington City Council is set to vote Monday on whether to proceed with the predesign phase of a proposed community center at Valley View Park, a location that many neighbors have loudly opposed.
Dozens of residents filed into a City Council meeting Nov. 18 wearing “Save Valley View Park” T-shirts. Many pushed back against placing the community center there, fearing it would result in too much change for the cherished neighborhood park.
“Community engagement has been positioned from the perspective of ‘What do you want in a Valley View community center?’ — not ‘Do you want a Valley View community center?’ ” said Terry McInroy during the public hearing.
If the City Council votes to move forward with the predesign phase of a Valley View community center, the city will launch another community engagement campaign to determine what amenities would be included, Parks and Recreation Director Ann Kattreh said.
The entire predesign cost would not exceed $768,000. The cost of a center at Valley View won’t be known until building design, size and amenities are finalized by the City Council. A previous study for a new Creekside Community Center estimated an $85 million price tag.
Bloomington officials selected Valley View Park as the preferred site because it’s large enough to accommodate the envisioned facility, and because the existing outdoor pool is due for a $12 million replacement in a few years.
A community task force in 2016 recommended that the City Council evaluate options for a new community center. Several locations were considered, most recently the existing Creekside Community Center site at 9801 Penn Av. and Bloomington Civic Plaza. But both were determined to be too small for a facility that included the amenities identified by the task force.
Since the city already is subsidizing the aging Creekside center and the Valley View outdoor pool at about $1 million each, the City Council asked staffers to explore putting the new community center at Valley View as a more economical option, said City Manager Jamie Verbrugge.
The city worked this fall with an architectural firm to collect resident input through drop-in events, surveys, meetings and online comment cards. A site study and traffic study were also completed, showing five potential configurations of the facility — each of which promised to add to Valley View Park’s green space.
“In the last two months, the focus was definitely on a capacity study and community engagement process for a community center located at Valley View Park,” Kattreh said. She added that didn’t mean the City Council couldn’t later change its mind.
At the meeting, resident Lenny Schmitz encouraged the city to hold a referendum on the community center location as a way to ease the tension around the issue.
Schmitz, who served on the task force that looked at options for the community center, said he supports the Valley View site.
“At the end of the day, there’s no perfect site for a community center in Bloomington, and we can only pick the best facility for what we need and what we want,” he said. “There’s a loud group saying nobody wants this. … Just because there’s a lot of noise about it doesn’t mean that’s representative of the whole community.”
Kattreh said that despite how some feel, seeking a wide range of opinions and feedback from residents about the community center has been and will continue to be the city’s priority.
“This has never been a done deal, and the City Council was sincere when they asked for a community engagement process,” she said. “I know they are taking very seriously what they’ve heard and will make a thoughtful decision on whether or not to move forward.”