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Farmington's city-run pool has a future

The current Farmington pool has been around for more than 40 years. The usual lifespan for such facilities is about 30 years.

Farmington's municipal pool is nearing the end of its lifespan, but it doesn't appear that will mean an end to outdoor swimming in the city.

Last week, the city's parks and recreation advisory commission started the process of planning the future of Farmington's pool. And while firm decisions are still a ways off, it appears there is support for keeping the city in the pool business.

Farmington's current municipal pool has been around for more than 40 years, a decade or so beyond the usual lifespan of such a facility. But parks and recreation director Randy Distad has informed city council members that the pool only has about five years left before it no longer makes sense to maintain it. Last week's parks board workshop was meant to start the process of figuring out whether the city wants to replace the pool and, if it does, what that replacement should look like.

"Within five years, we have to address what's going on with the existing pool," Distad said. "Ideally it would be nice if and when that pool breaks down there would be a new replacement facility that would go online."

Parks board members were unanimous in their support for replacing the pool and on where they think it should be located. They identified Jim Bell Park and Preserve, an area north of 195th Street that in a 2007 parks master plan also includes soccer and baseball fields.

That location is more central to the city than the current location and would put the pool closer to where growth is currently taking place.

Parks board members also supported turning the existing pool location into a smaller splash pad aquatic facility.

There was never much question among park board members about whether the city should replace its pool.

"I definitely think we should keep the aquatic facility," parks board chair David McMillan said.

Municipal pools have changed a lot since Farmington built its current facility 40 years ago. Gone are simple geometric shapes like the current pool's L. Modern pools have beach-like areas where users can wade in rather than jumping. There are still areas for lap swimming and diving, but there are also play areas where kids can jump across big lily, climb on cargo nets or stand under nozzles that spray them with water..

Parks board members looked at photos of facilities in Faribault, Northfield and Hastings as a point of comparison.

The city likely won't look at a larger facility like those in Apple Valley or Eagan that feature large waterslides.

The current pool does not make money for the city. The city pays about $50,000 each year to subsidize operations there. Parks board members expect a similar subsidy for a new pool.

The parks board recommendation will go to the Farmington City Council at an upcoming meeting.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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