Silver Lake pool fate remains murky

Park Board sees a place for it for one more year — if upgrades on Soldiers Field pool can start next year.

Taylor Peterson, a volunteer from the Mayo High School swim team, gives swimming lessons to, from left, Faith Chitseko, Micah Loftus and Kairi Fongnuan, all members of the Boys and Girls Club, Thursday, July 8, 2021, at the Silver Lake pool in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist /
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The fate of the Silver Lake Park swimming pool for 2022 could depend on plans for its sister pool.

“When we are redoing Soldier’s Field’s pool, I think having a second pool in town that is open would be beneficial,” Rochester Park Board President Linnea Archer said Tuesday.

The 63-year-old Silver Lake pool only opened this year after community calls for one more year of operations and Rochester City Council approved added funding.

RELATED: Silver Lake pool not in Rochester's 2022 spending plan

The added year saw nearly 10,000 visits for open swim times, according to Ben Boldt, recreation supervisor for Rochester's Parks and Recreation department.


Total visits in 2019 were 3,601 at the city’s small pool.

“My take is that free admission was a major influence in the numbers this year,” he said of the city council’s decision to waive admission at both outdoor pools.

The Soldiers Field pool had about 43,000 visits throughout the season, he said, adding an estimated 20,000 more visits were generated through swimming lessons and swim club activities.

Operating and maintaining the Silver Lake pool for another year will cost an estimated $95,000, which several Park Board members said could be too steep.

“I’m worried about spending $95,000 on an asset we aren’t likely to keep in the long term,” Park Board member Angela Gupta said.

She added that a long-term plan for pools and other water amenities must be part of the conversation.

The city’s current parks and recreation system plan calls for transitioning the Soldiers Field Park pool into a larger lap pool with a shallow area, along with other water-play features, for children. The Silver Lake Pool would be replaced with a different aquatic feature.

Mike Nigbur, head of the city's parks and forestry department, said some decisions have yet to be made as results of a recent survey start to emerge and a planning process for the two parks begin.


The larger Soldiers Field pool will happen, he said, but the timing is uncertain.

What happened: Rochester Park Board discussed keeping the Silver Lake swimming pool open another year, especially if renovations on the Soldiers Field Park pool begin in 2022.

Why does this matter: The Silver Lake pool is scheduled for permanent closure, with an estimated $95,000 required for another year of operations and maintenance. The cost is not in the current budget proposal.

What's next: The City Council will continue discussion of the 2022 budget on Monday, and the Park Board will hear an updated report on 2021 pool operations next month.

A proposed plan calls for borrowing funds to start the Soldiers Field project next year and paying the debt with annual revenue from a newly approved property tax for parks.

Park Board member Kaia Yngve said the lack of a decision on the plan, which is in the hands of the city council as it considers the 2022 budget, makes committing to the fate of the Silver Lake pool difficult.


“There just seems like there are too many unknowns on this,” she said.

The council will continue discussing budget-related issues during a work session at 3:30 p.m. Monday in the city-county Government Center.

In the end, the Park Board members agreed on three things related to the Silver Lake pool options.

They said the Silver Lake pool will be needed next year if the Soldiers Field pool is closed for renovations. They also said it could stay open without a Soldiers Field plan if the city council can find the $95,000 needed to operate and handle needed maintenance.

Lastly, they continued to push for the development of a long-term plan for aquatics in the park system.

“Pretty much every community member that talks to me about this wants to keep both pools open,” Archer said, adding that the city doesn’t have the finances needed to properly renovate and operate both facilities.

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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