On a recent morning at the Brooklyn Park community center, silver-haired fitness enthusiasts like 78-year-old Alice Browne broke a sweat in a group fitness class.
Their workout music seeped into a nearby room where players huddled around tables for mahjong, a Chinese tile game. Down the hall, students sorted their watercolors before a painting session.
High demand for space can spell trouble for residents who are ready for a workout, with popular senior fitness classes sometimes moved or scrapped if the big spaces get rented out, Browne said.
"We definitely need more room," she said.
Now for the first time in 20 years, Brooklyn Park voters will weigh in on a parks and recreation bond referendum that city officials say reflects community priorities — including more senior facilities at the community center.
The $26 million referendum is the first of its kind since 1997, when voters backed an $8.6 million bond for park upgrades. City officials say they may not end up bonding for the entire $26 million.
"We would only bond for what we needed at that time," said Mayor Jeff Lunde. "Now it's time to let the voters decide: Do they want to reinvest in the parks?"
After months of community input, city officials have winnowed potential projects to include a new teen center, a long-awaited hometown baseball field, new park picnic shelters and lights for turf fields, among other park upgrades.
Not all are in favor of the resulting tax hike, which could total about $58 a year for the owner of a Brooklyn Park home valued at $214,800, city documents show.
At a meeting last month, some City Council members voiced concerns about the potential property tax increases.
"I'm a pay-as-you-go person," Council Member Mark Mata said at the Aug. 20 meeting. "It's too easy when you get a pot of money to just sit and deplete it without probably thinking correctly about it."
A recent opinion survey of 400 Brooklyn Park residents showed that about 62 percent supported $26 million in parks bonding.
Local youth sports groups are among those rallying awareness about the referendum. Football and soccer families have been especially interested in a proposal to add lights to turf fields at Park Center Senior High School so that teams can practice after nightfall, said Dan Williams, president of the Brooklyn Park Athletic Association.
The hometown baseball field concept at Noble Sports Park also has been generating chatter. The project — complete with a grandstand, restrooms and concession areas — traces back to the previous park bond but fell through as costs rose and funding dried up, city officials said.
"It kind of got kicked to the side," Williams said. "Now they want to resurrect that field and put it back to what it was supposed to be."