The Minneapolis park board has decided to delay destroying the pool at the currently closed Phillips Community Center, but it may just be that: a delay of the inevitable. Parks and Recreation Commissioner Scott Vreeland said in an interview on March 26 that the Park Board has no plans to put the pool back into operation, and the current plan is to now destroy it on May 1. The delay, according to Vreeland, is so that the Park Board will have the “opportunity to have a full discussion with community.”
“I thought it was clear that we would not be using that pool,” Vreeland said. He said the Park Board has an obligation to the contractors who have signed a contract for $95,000 to fill the pool. The total budget for all of the repairs for the center equal $893,500, Vreeland said.
Vreeland said the Park Board has allocated $1.4 million to secure the building so that it can be used. That money comes from bonding sources, a settlement with former tenant, the Boys and Girls Club, and the capital tax fund, according to Vreeland.
Residents of the Phillips neighborhood met March 17 to discuss ways to prevent the Park Board from destroying the pool. Robert Albee, from Ventura Village, organized the meeting, which also focused on generating ideas for uses of the building, which he hopes would include activities for elders, families, artists in addition to youth.
At the beginning of year, “I thought we were going to pursue this idea of teens, and teen leadership,” Vreeland said. Volunteer teen leaders would run the center, he explained. However, there was a snag in that plan with the cuts in Park Board funding. “I don’t know how it will all shake out,” Vreeland said. “I don’t know what the best sustainable model will be. I thought the Park Board would be able to really develop this organically.”
“I’m willing to take all blame for pool issue,” Vreeland said. “The loss of the pool is sad and emotional. We never had the opportunity to rebuild the pool at that location; we just don’t have the funds.”
Robert Albee sent an email on March 23 with the news that he had heard from Vreeland that the Park Board planned to fill the pool on April 1. Following the news, many angry emails went back and forth between members of the community.
On March 25, Albee said that he had received a call from City Council member Robert Lilligren. Albee said Lilligren told him that the destruction of the pool would be delayed.
In an interview on March 26, Lilligren said that he had heard that the pool’s destruction had been delayed, but didn’t hear it had just been re-scheduled to May 1.
“I continue to see more and more of the recreational assets in Phillips area shut down by park board,” Lilligren said. He brought up as an example Peavey Park, which was shut down several years ago, angering the community. Regarding the Phillips Community Center pool, Lilligren said: “To make this unilateral decision without engaging the community- I think it’s wrong.”
“The larger issue,” Lilligren said, “Is that of equity of service. There are fewer and fewer services for people in Phillips area, and more and more of it in wealthier neighborhoods.” Lilligren hopes to conduct an equality of service study to examine these issues. “I’m surprised nobody’s sued them for inequitable services in this city,” he said.