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Soldiers Field Park’s $10M pool proposal is part of Silver Lake Pool golf course discussion – Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — The proposed update to the Soldiers Field Park master plan calls for doubling the size of the pool complex, which would encroach on the nearby municipal golf course, but the final picture remains uncertain.

“These elements would be explored in the next step of the process,” said Rita Trapp, a staffer at Minneapolis-based HKGI, a consultant hired to update the existing master plan.

The plan features a combination of splash and play pools, sunbathing areas and a lazy river alongside a new 50-meter lap pool and a renovated bathhouse.

Mike Nigbur, head of Rochester’s Parks and Forestry Division, said the proposed framework of the draft, which will be presented to Rochester City Council and the Parks Board, can be changed if reviewed by a local group that has been selected to to assist in planning the actual aquatic features.

This plan will determine how much space will be needed on the existing golf course, and any changes to the course will likely be covered by the $10 million planned for pool-related facilities.
Rochester City Council members and others have questioned whether additional space is needed.

“People that I know in the aquarium hobby who are familiar with the aquarium hobby are very happy with the size of the aquarium at the moment,” Councilor Shaun Palmer said. “You don’t currently see where it needs to be expanded. The footprint works for everything you just suggested.”

Rochester Swimming Inc. President Bill Shaughnessy echoed the sentiment during a public hearing on Tuesday. He said the group, which advocates for swimming and diving programs in the city, agreed the proposed design for a new pool and additional water features exceeded needs.

“The reason for this isn’t that we don’t support swimming and diving and the need for water sports facilities, but we respect our neighbors and want the golfers in our community to be our friends and neighbors and not our adversaries,” he said of proposing the roll back plan.

Along with several council members, he cited a preference to take on a smaller water sports facility at Soldiers Field and add a new pool project to the proposed Silver Lake Park redevelopments.

“We think we need a second pool here in Rochester,” he said.

The proposed master plan for Silver Lake Park envisions eventually closing the existing pool and replacing it with splash guards that would not require lifeguards and could be open to the public at no cost.

Council member Mark Bransford said the proposal was unacceptable, citing the city’s AccessABLE Recreation’s use of the Silver Lake pool, which serves people with developmental disabilities.

“You can’t take these kids to Soldiers Field on the bus,” said the councilor, whose daughter is attending the summer program. “It’s too disruptive and takes too much time away from their programming.”

Roy Sutherland, a former superintendent at Rochester Parks and Recreation, said he tried closing the Silver Lake pool 25 years ago due to the state of the aging site and lack of use, but he doesn’t support the current proposals.

“I don’t understand if we have two pools, one is in much better shape than the other, so we’re going to fix that one in much better shape,” he told the current park authority. “If the city has made the decision to close one of the swimming pools, that might make sense, but in my opinion that decision hasn’t been made.”

The proposal to close the Silver Lake pool and expand the Soldiers Field facility stems from the Parks and Recreation System Plan developed in 2015 and 2016, which was the result of community input on community expectations.

Nigbur said swimming advocates have expressed a desire for an improved facility so Rochester residents don’t have to travel to other communities to get similar amenities.

“While many people would like the community to provide two or more pools, the conversation surrounding pool facilities is heavily and broadly geared towards offering a higher quality and more amenities at Soldiers (Field Park) and not a scaled down version or even that to have the same kind of amenities that are currently in place,” he said.

City Council President Brooke Carlson said she understands the sentiment.

“I’m not a firm ‘no’ to the pool expansion (at Silver Lake Park), but I’m leaning toward something that would have the characteristics of aquatics, but make sure we have an amazing facility at Soldiers Field,” said you. citing cost concerns associated with operating and maintaining two full pools.

Additionally, she pointed to the potential for an indoor leisure pool as part of a proposed $65 million regional community or recreation complex that could be funded through an expanded state sales tax if approved by state legislatures and the approved by local voters.

The potential cost of a two-pool option remains uncertain, but Kari Spiegelhalter, a senior urban ecological designer for Asaukura Robinson who has been hired to create the Silver Lake Park master plan, said it will likely cost millions from $14 million to $17 $.5 million would raise million price for the planned Silver Lake Park update.

“We just finished a slightly smaller pool that cost about $3.5 million to build,” she said.

Nigbur said it’s unclear whether some of the proposed $18.5 million funding for improvements at Soldiers Field Park could be reallocated to a pool project in Silver Lake.

The Soldiers Field Park proposal includes $10 million of funding from the state’s Destination Medical Center that is not currently approved for use at Silver Lake Park because it is outside the DMC District. The board of directors of the state-owned DMC Corp. and the city council would have to approve a redefinition of the district.

An additional $5 million in federal grant may be used only for certain projects at Soldiers Field Park, leaving up to $3.5 million in city tax funds with potential flexibility.

“With grant funding and expectations set in terms of content and required grant agreement, any reduction in water sports facilities would need to be reviewed in light of grant award,” Nigbur said, noting the possible need for city funds to be required are in addition to federal funds.

The Rochester Parks Board is expected to review plans for Soldiers Field and Silver Lake parks during its Oct. 4 meeting. If the update to the Soldiers Field Park plan is approved, additional pool design discussions are expected to begin.

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