Phillips Aquatic Center set to become reality


It has been another whirlwind month of looking for money everywhere we can to deliver on our promise to bring EQUITY, ACCESS & the OPPORTUNITIES that swimming can bring to all in Minneapolis! Of course, our answer to this seemingly befuddling political riddle is not new committees, or task forces, but rather, to update and enhance the first PUBLIC, indoor pool right here, in the heart of the Phillips Community! The Phillips Aquatics Center is a reality! Swimming lessons in Minneapolis will no longer only be for the more affluent, we are leveling the playing field! Our focus will be on saving our children first, but we will have adult classes as well. Equity.

As you learned last month, our good friends at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) kicked off the new phase of this Capital Campaign by giving us a $250,000 matching grant. We’ve had some generous individual donors, right from this Community, start to donate to match against that, and then Wells Fargo for $25,000 & EPIC for $50,000.

Since then, more good news!

  • The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation donated $50,000.
  • The Rogue Foundation pledged $50,000 (through Minneapolis Foundation).
  • Midtown Phillips Association will contribute $50,000, pending final January vote.
  • Ventura Village Housing & Land Use Committee voted to give $50,000 (NPP/NCR), which goes to membership for a vote in January.

We have much more in the works. I even have had a meeting with a family foundation referred to us by the St. Paul Foundation!

As a high enough dollar amount is reached and we estimate that we have realistically maximized the potential of capital campaign gifts; we simultaneously have to answer the question of which Optional Plan to recommend to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

In the most recent historical proposal from Minneapolis Swims (late 2013), three designs were put forth, “Option A” at a cost of $2.8M, “Option B” at cost of $5.8M, and “Option C” at a cost of $8.2M.

Option A is essentially restoring what is there now: a 6-lane pool with a shallow and a deep end, and no bleachers. Option B would change the 6-lane pool into an 8-lane pool, restore the old bleachers, (eliminating upstairs offices, but replacing them downstairs), add a 4-lane warm water, shallow 25-yard lap pool, and add classrooms for meetings and instruction. Option C adds more space, and adds a 2 story diving well.

Coming up with the Minneapolis Swims Board recommendation for a proposed plan was not done lightly. To get another, un-biased opinion, I brought in Mortensen Construction, which was kind enough to donate its time to assist us. With them, we started from the assumption that if we only raise $X, $Y or $Z, given the pool that is there and the needs of the community, what is the best facility we could get?

As you look at revenue generation models for pools, the money is either coming from core constituents or from outside sources. This was another huge factor for us. It is our dream for this to truly be a public pool, meaning little or no access fee for people to use the facility. So the revenue, then, must necessarily come from sources like “lane rentals,” as an example. Hence, there will be certain hours of the day when lanes in the pool will be used by our boys and girls on the swim teams at South, Roosevelt and Washburn high schools, for which Minneapolis Public Schools will be paying $150,000 annually toward the pool’s operating costs.

With Option A, the 6-lane pool, this presents challenges, because even with our proposed 18-hour day, community access time starts getting chopped- possibly to an unacceptable level. Option C would have been a dream! But the numbers were just too far out of reach given our short fundraising window.

In the end, we re-worked Option B, keeping all of the green, highly energy-efficient & environmentally friendly components that are expensive on the front end, but will save the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the pool. We trimmed out any “fluff” or inefficiencies, accounted for inflation in terms of construction cost, and came up with an estimated cost of $5,712,450. This number includes everything: site work to be done by MPRB, contingencies, etc.

This will give us an 8-lane competition pool with spectator seating, plus a 4-lane, warm water shallow pool that will be wheelchair accessible and Medicare compliant for therapy. With a total of 12 swimmable lanes, and a facility open 18 hours per day, this is the recommended design of Minneapolis Swims. Financially, this gives the MPRB a model that will generate enough revenue to sustain itself, and not be a burden on the taxpayers. Practically, this gives Minneapolis a community pool that will always have lots of time for lap swimming, family time, swim lessons, water aerobics, water therapy, etc. for all ages!

We are 59% of the way there! Of the $5,712,450, we have $3,342,950 pledged or accounted for, and $2,369,500 to go. At this point, the MPRB has given us until the end of February to raise as much money as we can, and, at that point, their plan is to build the best pool possible with the funds in hand. Given some exciting larger grants that we are pursuing, we will likely be asking the MPRB for an extension of that deadline. Either way, time is of the essence!

Our role is simply to raise the money, and turn it over to the Park Board. It is their facility, and in the end, their decision to make. Look for a community meeting seeking input to be organized by them sometime in January!

Once the Capital Campaign for the Phillips Aquatics Center comes to a close, Minneapolis Swims will continue to raise money for swimming scholarships. Already, we have started the “Sha-kym Adams Learn-to-Swim Scholarship Fund,” which will help make sure that the cost of swimming lessons is not a barrier to our children learning how to swim. We have also secured pledges for funding to support swimmers who desire assistance with the cost of participating on a competitive swim team. And someday, we hope to help send swimmers to college.

Watch our Facebook page for the latest updates, and please contact me if you know of any individuals, foundations, or corporations that might have an interest in helping with this project


Denny Bennett is President of Minneapolis Swims Board of Directors. He may be contacted at


“Sha-kym Adams ‘Learn-to-Swim’ Scholarship Fund”

Phillips Community residents Kimberly Adams and Sharrod Rowe, parents of Sha-kym Adams, Mpls. South HS sophomore football player who drowned August 6th in Lake Nokomis, have started this scholarship fund to increase opportunities for youth swimming instruction in the Community. Contributions are encouraged and welcomed to the Fund in care of
Mpls. Swims 2323 11th Ave. So., Mpls. MN 55404.