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A New Community Center for all of Bloomington

Overview

In 2015, a resident task force recommended the City Council evaluate options for construction of a new community center to better serve the needs of all Bloomington residents. Several locations were considered, including the existing Creekside Community Center site and Bloomington Civic Plaza. The City Council evaluated all options and, in April 2019, directed City staff to develop a plan for a new facility at the Valley View complex on 90th Street between Portland and Nicollet Avenues South—the current site of Bloomington Family Aquatics Center.

People running

Valley View Site

The land at Valley View Park is the preferred location because it is large enough to accommodate the community center being envisioned and it is already City owned. Building a new community center there would allow the City to maximize the other recreation facilities within the park and to address the aging pool facility, which is scheduled for a multimillion dollar replacement in 2026. The new community center would have a possible indoor-outdoor aquatic space that could be used year-round.

Mother and daughter playing

Facility Amenities and Community Input

The community center is in the beginning stages of a multistep process that includes planning, design, contract awarding, funding, and ultimately construction. It is estimated that it could take up to four years from the time it is approved before the community center is completed and begins operation. One of the most important next steps in the process is the selection of an architect who will then work with the City Council, residents, staff and other stakeholders to develop the design of the proposed facility. City staff will provide a variety of opportunities for residents and stakeholders to give feedback on the project with open houses, focus groups and more in the coming months. Features and amenities being explored include: 

  • Aquatics center with lap pool, family pool, indoor/ outdoor integration 
  • Multiple gymnasiums and fitness center 
  • Walking/running track 
  • Outdoor spaces 
  • Indoor playground 
  • Multipurpose rooms 

People playing cards

Potential Changes to the Valley View Ballfields

The final development will include park and green space, and ballfields. The preliminary plan for a community center at the Valley View site could potentially result in the loss of three ballfields on the Valley View Park site. If fields are eliminated, it would cause relocation of some events, including the portion of the Firemen’s tournament that normally uses those fields. The City would work closely with event organizers to find suitable alternate location(s). The new community center would not impact access to ballfields used annually by the Firemen’s Tournament at Valley View Middle School and St. Bonaventure Catholic Church. 

As a part of the Valley View site review, a traffic study will be conducted and the results included in the recommendations to City Council. 

Cost and funding

The cost of the project will not be known until decisions about the building design, size, features, amenities, and program elements are finalized by the City Council. The funding source has not been determined. There are several potential sources for funding the construction of a community center including a bond referendum, lease revenue bonds, and charter bonds, as well as the sale of the existing Creekside property and savings.

April 2019 Statement from City Manager

April 12, 2019 - Earlier this week the City Council directed staff to develop plans for a new community center at the Valley View complex. For the past year or so we have been focused on the area around Civic Plaza and the existing Creekside Community Center, so the emergence of Valley View as an option may be surprising to some. I want to quickly explain that and give you an idea what will be happening in the next couple months.

In discussing the building design and what features may be included in it, the City Council was concerned that the Civic Plaza site and the Creekside site were both too small to accommodate the facility without adding a lot of cost to the project for structured parking. Also, in discussing the desire to have aquatics in the community center (such as a lap pool, zero depth entry, and possibly indoor/outdoor kids’ waterplay areas), the City Council discussed whether it made sense to have two aquatics locations since we have the Family Aquatic Center (FAC) at Valley View.

The pool vessel at the FAC is planned for replacement in a few years at a cost of roughly $12 million (in 2026 dollars). We have been saving money for that replacement and have nearly $5 million dollars on hand. The Council and staff agree that replacing the entire FAC with a community center that also has year-round aquatics is a better long-term investment than the nearly $1 million a year subsidy (operations and capital reserve) for a pool that is open less than three months of the year.

The community center at Valley View also provides an opportunity to create more integrated recreational programming that takes advantage of the other assets already there; more than what we could by just replacing Creekside on its site.  

We have a lot to do in a short period of time. We will be reaching out to neighbors around Valley View to share this information and get their input. We will be putting out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for architect services, which will include active public engagement in the design process. And we will be presenting options to the City Council regarding costs for the project and how to pay for it if the Council decides to move ahead. 

There will be a Town Hall Forum on Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m. in the Schneider Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts. That event will also be available on Facebook Live. Mayor Winstead and I, along with the City Council, will be reviewing the State of the City and answering questions.  We won’t be exclusively focused on the community center that evening, but it will be the next opportunity to hear more about our efforts to replace Creekside with a community center that serves everyone for the next couple generations.

— Jamie Verbrugge, Bloomington City Manager

FAQ

Why is the City exploring the construction of a new community center?

Originally built as an elementary school, the existing Creekside Community Center facility has outlived its useful life. Reinvestments needed to maintain the building do not make financial sense and there are significant limitations on the way space could be remodeled or repurposed. In 2016 a resident task force recommended that the City Council explore construction of a new community center that would better meet the needs of residents of all ages.

Why is the Valley View Park site the preferred location?

The land at Valley View Park is large enough to accommodate the community center being envisioned and it is already City owned. Building a new community center there would allow the City to maximize the other recreation facilities within the park and to address the aging pool facility, with a possible indoor-outdoor aquatic space that could be used year round.

What will happen to the current Creekside Community Center?

Creekside Community Center would remain open during the construction of a new community center, but is expected to close when a new community center is built. A new community center would provide space for many of the programs currently delivered at the Creekside site. The potential sale or re-use of the Creekside property will be the focus of future City Council discussions.

Will there be programs for seniors at the new community center?

Most of the programs for seniors currently offered at Creekside would move into the new community center. In addition, the new facility will open up the opportunity to add more programming for seniors such as additional group fitness classes.  

What will the proposed community center look like?

This has not been determined at this time. One of the next steps will be to select an architect who will then work with the City Council, residents, staff and other stakeholders to begin design of the proposed facility.

What will be included in a new community center?

No final decisions have been made, but components being explored include:

  • Gymnasium space
  • Walking track
  • Indoor playground
  • Indoor and outdoor aquatic features
  • Fitness equipment and classrooms
  • Numerous community rooms for meetings, classes and programs
  • Large event and meeting space 

The City is also exploring whether to include space for the City’s Public Health Division, which is in serious need of new office and clinic space.

How much will a new Community Center cost?  What will the impact be on my property taxes?

The cost of the project will not be known until decisions about the final building design, size, and program elements are finalized by the City Council. An estimate of project cost will be better known by the end of 2019.

What is the funding source for construction of a new community center?

The funding source has not been determined. There are several potential sources for funding the construction of a community center. One source is a bond referendum.  In a bond referendum voters are given the opportunity via a ballot measure to approve a proposed issue of municipal securities for the purpose of constructing a public facility. This is considered a pure general obligation bond, meaning it is 100% supported by taxes and the City Council pledges the full faith and credit of the City. Interest rate on the debt is the lowest in the market at time of issuance.

Another financing option is lease revenue bonds. This form of long-term borrowing is commonly used to finance public facilities, including community centers. The City’s Port Authority would be the issuer of the bonds and the City the lessee for a specific project (revenues to support the debt service on the bonds are lease payments to the Port Authority.)  As this is a revenue bond, the interest rate will be higher. Since the requirement for annual appropriations for lease revenue bonds does not treat them as debt, there is no need for voter approval.

A third potential funding source is charter bonds. By a vote of five of its members, the City Council can adopt a resolution to authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds that pledge the full faith and credit and taxing powers of the City. Interest rate on the debt is the lowest in the market at the time of issuance. The general obligation bonds can be issued on such terms and conditions the Council determines, without obtaining the approval of a majority of the electors voting on the question of issuing such bonds. The City can pledge any other available revenues or assets of the City to the payment of the general obligation bonds. General obligation bonds can be issued for a public purpose to finance any capital improvement and related costs including, but not limited to, interest on the bonds, the costs of feasibility studies, design, and plans and specifications, publication costs, costs of issuance and other capital costs of any capital improvement.  

Other potential funding sources include the sale of the existing property at Creekside and savings.

Are we looking to meet the needs of future and current residents, or be an attractor for younger families?

The answer is “yes” to all of the above.  A new community center would be right-sized and purpose-built to meet the needs of residents both now and into the future.  Creekside is undersized to accommodate current community center program demands in Bloomington. The City cannot offer the programming desired by its residents due to the lack of space and flexibility in the current facility.  A vibrant community center would improve the quality of life in Bloomington and serve as an attractor for younger families as well as older residents.

Mall of America is developing a water park and the middle schools have pools.  So why does the City also need a new, expanded pool?

The water park at Mall of America is being designed and will ultimately be marketed primarily as a destination for tourists and other visitors, with entrance fees typical of large, destination water parks.  Bloomington Public Schools does have pools at its middle schools, but those are indoor-only facilities and offer limited hours of operation and limited times for open/family swimming.  The aquatics facilities at a new community center would be primarily utilized by Bloomington residents, and with a proposed indoor/outdoor configuration, would offer longer hours, year-round operation, and more availability for open swimming.

Will there be user fees for the new community center?

Currently at Creekside, some programs require a user fee, while other programs and events are free. With the opening of a new community center, this dynamic will not change. The fee structure for new features, programming and amenities not currently available at Creekside, such as an indoor playground, expanded aquatics facilities, and a fully equipped fitness center, has not yet been determined. As is the case today, fee assistance to help with the cost of participating in programming at the new community center will be made available.

What is the time frame for a new community center?

It is anticipated that given the number of steps required for planning, design, funding and construction, it could take up to four years before a community center is built and operational if the project moves forward.

How will the additional traffic for patrons of the new community center be managed? 

As a part of the Valley View site review a traffic study will be conducted and the results included in the recommendations to City Council. 

Community Center task force

The City Council appointed a Community Center Task Force in fall 2015 to provide Council with a framework for making decisions regarding a potential new community center. The 17-member task force included 11 residents, three City staff, two City Commissioners and one City Council member. The task force met eight times between April and August 2016. Members analyzed market trends and space needs, studied a 2015 needs assessment report and toured community centers in other cities. 

Task force documents

Task force findings

The task force determined that the current Creekside building was no longer a viable option, adding that making major improvements to the building were not worth the return on investment.

The task force recommended that the City replace Creekside with a facility that would attract and retain people of all ages, families, diverse community members and current users. Amenities such as a gymnasium, aquatics, indoor playground, walking/running track, and large and small multipurpose rooms should be included in a new community center, according to the task force.

Other recommendations:

  • Locate the facility on a site of at least 8 – 10 acres in a central location with access to transit and trails.
  • Seek out partnership opportunities to mitigate the tax impact on property owners.
  • Consider bonding and other financing optionsavailable to the City for construction of a new community center.

Memo of Understanding with YMCA

As a result of the task force’s recommendations, City staff engaged in discussions with the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities on a possible community center collaboration. In August 2017, the two parties agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalize discussions and create a framework within which the City and YMCA would enter into a partnership to build a shared site community center in Bloomington. 

The Memorandum of Understanding established the formation of a Community Center Stakeholder Working Group made up of representatives from the City of Bloomington and YMCA. The group meets on a regular basis to advance the project and achieve the milestones specified in the Memorandum of Understanding.

The City’s representatives to the stakeholder working group are:

  • Jon Oleson, former City Council Member
  • John Stanley, Community Center Task Force Member
  • Diann Kirby, Community Services Director

Documents

YouTube videos