Minneapolis Public School officials want to build a multipurpose athletics facility and create a foundation to raise money for the district’s sporting needs.
At a recent board meeting, district officials presented a five-year athletic plan that asked for additional investments in the department. In return, the department wants to build what it calls “first-class infrastructure” that is on par with surrounding school districts. Currently, the district has a backlog of facilities that are in dire need of maintenance, requiring an extra $2 million per year just to catch up.
The athletics plan says its hockey arena is in shambles and many fields and basketball courts need upgrades. Athletic officials worry that Minneapolis’ sporting facilities are falling behind surrounding school districts.
Additional funding would ensure those improvements are made and it would also secure a new swimming pool at a north-side school and the sporting complex. Left off the plan was a proposal for a renovated Phillips pool in south Minneapolis, which has strong board support. Several board members expressed their disappointment the pool project was excluded from the plan.
The board wants the school district to spend at least $2 million to help Minneapolis park officials renovate the Phillips Community Pool into an eight-lane facility, offering better access to swimming lessons and competitive swimming programs. District officials have argued that they need to look at athletics more holistically, instead of spending too much money on a single sport.
“There is a lot of community support for this. There is a lot of legislative support for this,” Board Member Rebecca Gagnon said. “This has been a frustrating conversation. How do we address this for the community who wants this pool?”
Interim Superintendent Michael Goar said the district must thoroughly research the plan before it can offer to give the Park Board money to construct an eight-lane pool. Goar said he has a series of meetings with Park Board staff in coming weeks.
Part of the district’s broader athletics plan is to build stronger relationships with the Park Board, which officials hope would give the district access to more and higher quality facilities. The district wants to establish an agreement with park officials that would address joint programming, facility sharing, maintenance and financial management of facilities.
Athletics department staff acknowledged the scarcity of district resources, so they want to create a foundation that would raise private money to build new facilities and upgrade uniforms. The district has not established fundraising goals, but told board members that the outside money could help defer costs for the proposed sporting complex, which is estimated to cost $20 million. It could open as early as 2018. The complex would include indoor facilities, such as a hockey rink, but would also have outdoor fields.
Dave Wicker, the assistant athletic director, said the complex “could bring Minneapolis back to the forefront” in terms of sporting facilities.