City may deep six pool at Silver Lake

Permanent closure among proposed budget cuts as city looks at anticipated 2021 revenue reductions.

The Silver Lake Pool on Wednesday, September 2, 2020, in Rochester. (Andrew Link /

Anticipated citywide revenue reductions for 2021 could spur permanent closure of the Silver Lake Park swimming pool after nearly eight decades of operation.

“It is getting more costly to maintain that pool,” Rochester Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman told the Park Board this week, adding that attendance has been dwindling in recent years.

The closure would reduce the city’s parks budget by $40,000, and Widman said other city departments have been asked to present similar cuts to their anticipated 2021 budgets.

The pool has been closed this summer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it continues to be an expense on the parks budget. Fox example, the closed pool still racked up a $567 utility bill for August.

Widman said he recommended closing the pool to city administration as one of several options to meet the 2021 budget goals.


“Since the matter at hand is a funding issue, the approval rests with (Rochester City) Council,” he said following Wednesday’s meeting. “I made this recommendation since it is essentially enacting what is outlined in our system-wide master plan .”

He said a recent pool study shows some elements are in good condition, but other aspects are likely to fail in the near future, which could cause a mid-season shutdown.

“We would like to close the pool before we actually have to,” he said, adding that park staff believes the facility is close to a forced closure due to anticipated repair costs.

“I always say if you were to take a tour of the pump house and locker rooms, I believe everyone would be in agreement that we’ve gone past the useful life of that pool,” he added.

The system-wide master plan adopted in 2016 calls for eventually replacing the outdoor pool with an interactive water feature.

The plan also calls for repurposing the existing pool building for an indoor multi-purpose use with year-round activity.

“There’s a lot of design and planning that needs to go on,” Widman said of addressing future developments in the park.

Park Board President Linnea Archer expressed disappointment in the potential loss of the pool, but noted that closing it could play into the development of a Silver Lake Park master plan next year.


Board member Dick Dale was most vocal in opposing the decision, pointing out that closure would mean the city has no water play area east of Broadway Avenue.

The Park Board didn’t hold an official vote on the issue.

The decision to put the pool on the list of potential budget cuts, along with an $18,000 reduction in salaries related to the city’s golf program, comes as Rochester voters will be asked in November to consider a referendum to provide $2 million annually for park upgrades.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or
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