District 194’s pool project cost exceeds original estimate | Lakeville

The Lakeville Area School Board on Tuesday approved bids for the work to be done on the installation of dome-ready turf fields at the two high schools and the building of a new gymnasium at McGuire Middle School.

The two projects are part of the tax levy that was approved by voters in November. Missing from Tuesday’s meeting, however, was any such approvals regarding the new pool at Century Middle School as the district continues to struggle with meeting the price tag presented to voters in the referendum.

The plan approved by voters calls for a 25-yard, eight-lane pool that Wold Architects and Engineers, hired by the district to provide a cost estimate, said would come in at $8.9 million.

But the district has since learned that the estimate came in significantly below the actual cost for the 22,000-square-foot addition, and has been working diligently to try to rectify the problem.

“The costs are different than what was presented by the original architect,” Board Member Terry Lind said. “We have a new architect (DLR) working on the design that is teaming with U.S. Aquatics.”

A new plan has been discussed that would reduce the size of the addition to 16,700 square feet. The size of the lobby, the inclusion of a concession stand, the amount of office space and spectator seating capacity are among the particulars that are being looked at to make the numbers work.

A pool committee made up of district educators and members of the swimming community have been meeting to come up with a compromise proposal that eventually will go before the School Board for a vote. One prominent member of the swimming community, Phil Smith the head coach of the South Metro Storm, has presented a proposal that far exceeds the original concept.

Smith would like to see the project expanded to include a 50-meter pool, which would allow for more than one team to practice at a time and the prospect of hosting significant swimming events.

“If we did this,” Smith said, “Lakeville would be the mecca of Minnesota swimming.”

According to Smith an additional $6.5 million would be needed to build the 50-meter pool.

“There’s a need for some creative funding,” Smith said, “and I’m open to any and all possibilities. Adding a pool like this would be good for the businesses in the area, including bars and restaurants.

“I have met with (city officials) and they are interested, but they haven’t given me any specifics on what they would be willing to do. And some private businesses have expressed interest. It’s just a matter of getting everyone to the table and discussing specifics.”

There are two 50-meter pools in Minnesota, one in Rochester and the other at the University of Minnesota. According to Smith, officials at the U have said that a number of events it now hosts could be moved to Lakeville.

“I have tentative agreements from eight different clubs to rent pool time,” Smith added. “If we build it, it will be full from April to August. There would be people in it every weekend running a meet and every day training in it.”

The 25-yard pool would include seating for 400. The 50-meter pool would need to have seating for at least 750, Smith said.

“The benefits to the community would be unbelievable,” Lind said. “There are questions to be answered, because it would be a major footprint on Century. How it affects Century is among the things that would have to be worked out.”

School Superintendent Michael Baumann said that the proposal is being discussed but that there are a number of challenges that need to be considered. Among them the need for additional parking, the potential loss of surrounding athletic fields and the overall impact on the school.

“There is full appreciation for the thoughts and desires of a 50-meter pool,” Baumann said. “However, the many unknowns with the considerably higher costs do not fit with the school district’s charge. The administration is focused on following through with established expectations regarding a pool facility at Century Middle School.”

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