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Sunday November 18th 2018

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Phillips Aquatics Center: A dream come true! IS OPEN!

MURPHY BYRNE (MURPHYBYRNEPHOTOGRAPHY.COM) COURTESY OF MPLS. PARK & RECREATION BOARD
Phillips Aquatics Center Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting Ceremony (at entrance to the 6-Lane Pool) These 25 adults represent the Partners for the Center’s Renovation and Expansion whose support and dedication was a wide range of individuals and organizations in Phillips and the broader community. This includes generous funding support from the Mpls. Park and Recreation Board, the State of MN, Mpls. Public Schools and Hennepin County’s Youth Sports Grants Program, as well as donations from three Phillips Neighborhoods and Minneapolis Swims. Support coordinated through Mpls. Swims includes funding from the Minneapolis Foundation, Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the Piper Family Fund, East Phillips Improvement Coalition, Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Rogue Foundation, Midtown Phillips Improvement Association, and Wells Fargo. The three children pictured here are a reminder of the focus of hundreds of people who spent innumerable hours of conversations, negotiations, planning sessions, and deliberation on scope, fund-raising, protocols, and policies.

The following remarks are five of over a dozen acknowledgements at the Grand Opening Ceremony of this tremendous success story.

Nine years ago
By BRAD PASS

We found an OLD Letter, dating back to 2009. It is from the Park Board’s Director of Community Recreation Services. It talks about the state of this building 9 years ago. I’ll read a few sentences:

“After reviewing the present condition of the Phillips Community Center, I have reluctantly recommended to the General Manager and the Superintendent that the building be closed and “mothballed” no later than October 15, 2009. In light of our present financial position and the lack of responsible options, they have agreed.

“The boiler and HVAC systems were in disrepair, the swimming pool mechanics inoperable, the pool deck supports crumbling, bathrooms and plumbing non-usable, gym floor and carpeting beyond cleaning, some electrical systems non-functional… a total mess.”

So, faced with the probability that this wonderful but challenged building would be torn down or sold as a warehouse to the local hospitals, friends, neighbors and communities stepped up, spoke up and ponied up—the people of East Phillips voted to donate $75,000 which acted as a partial match to the very large Native American donation through the Mdewakanton Sioux and many more large donations started flowing in—and nine years later, here we stand, celebrating the Grand Opening of this fantastic facility. This is a tribute to what the people can do.

Hannah in the first year and one half
By CAROL PASS

One of the people who put in a tremendous amount of time and effort in making this possible and who should not be forgotten is Hannah Lieder. In the first year and a half of this project, Hannah was at the State Capital day after day during two legislative sessions with neighbor kids and supporters and was responsible for getting some of the first dollars into this project, a big grant from the State Legislature.

And, of course, we are very thankful to the Minneapolis Park Leadership, Commissioners, and staff—past, present and future—who have supported and taken on the awesome responsibility of making sure this facility serves those it was built to serve—the kids and people of this community.

BELLA BENNETT
Denny Bennett, President of Minneapolis Swims, acknowledges the extensive team work of neighbors, organizations, government, foundations, and $10,000 gift from the Sha-Kym Adams Learn-to-Swim fund.

The FINAL 7½ year lap around the POOL!
By DENNY BENNETT

Minneapolis Swims is really the foster parent of the Phillips Aquatics Center. We took this baby on in 2009 when it was slated to get filled in with concrete.

It was Hannah Lieder who emerged from a concerned community and built the family that is now Minneapolis Swims. Hannah had a vision that, against all odds, this abandoned pool would become an aquatics center.

This persistent lady kept at it, and eventually this baby became a child with a partial scholarship in the bank!

As the “child” got older and the funding deadline closer, Hannah introduced me to Minneapolis Swims, and she left to raise other babies, real babies!

As happened with Hannah, people told me a pool in Phillips would never happen; that I was wasting my time. But I believed in the vision and was passionate about the cause. I was able to keep and build a dedicated board, and we continued the hard work.

We gave presentations, lobbied with anyone who would meet with us, wrote funding proposals and took our cause to social media – and the money started coming in. We were able to secure a bulk of the capital funding, as well as significant commitments toward operating expenses for the first 5 years of operation – but it still wasn’t enough.

A breakthrough came when we secured a significant capital commitment from Minneapolis Public Schools toward the construction of the facility. Not only could this pool serve three of their high schools, but the very children who would be learning to swim here every day are also students of Minneapolis Public Schools.

At last, we had the votes we needed at the Park Board to move forward with the two-pool facility we have today!

However, after all the budgets were complete, and construction was ready to start, we got the news that the new fitness center and new locker rooms needed to be cut because we were still $270,000 short.

We went back to work, and, again, with the help of our friends at the Minneapolis Foundation and an incredibly generous anonymous donor, we found that money, too!

Our mission is to bring Equity, Access and the Opportunity that swimming can bring to all in Minneapolis. Thus, our work is not done. We will continue to exist to raise funds to ensure that finances are not a barrier to learn to swim.

And, on that note, I’d like to announce a $10,000 gift from the Sha-Kym Adams Learn-to-Swim fund of Minneapolis Swims toward swimming scholarships here at the Phillips Aquatics Center!

Finally, I want to offer special thanks to all the donors, volunteers, elected officials and mentors who helped Minneapolis Swims make this tremendous, life-saving asset a reality for the community.

MURPHY BYRNE (MURPHYBYRNEPHOTOGRAPHY.COM) COURTESY OF MPLS. PARK & RECREATION BOARD
Ceremonial Community Splash! (alongside and into the 4-Lane Teaching Pool). This first official swim in the Center on April 21st will be duplicated thousands of time in years ahead as neighborhood children learn to swim, schools compete, adults recreate and exercise reflecting, as the image here, the very purpose of this remarkable facility brought about by new found collaboration.

“Each day we use the pool we are healthier than the day before!”
By BOB ALBEE

I’m the guy from out of town! For me, this is the best reason to come back to Minneapolis from the Seattle area to join together with you people to make something happen that shouldn’t have happened without all of our efforts. It happened because of this special community! I’m so proud to have been part of this for so many years! My friend here, Sahra Ali (a Somali Elder woman) worked with us on diabetes programs; when I first met her, she was in the exercise room learning Kick Boxing! I thought, I’ve got to know this gal! We’ve come from many places and many cultures to make a very special place. I grew up out in Western South Dakota where we, as little kids, spent countless hours at our outdoor pool in the warmer seasons.

When I came to Minneapolis many years later, it was a deep shock to me that kids around here never had the advantages we had as kids. And then to find that there’s a pool just blocks away… I used to live on 23rd Street just around the corner when it was run by the Boys & Girls Club. I could come here and get in the pool—we had one or two people using it. We had the whole pool to ourselves! It was wonderful, but like many things that come to an end… it closed. Brad Pass gave a very elegant thumbnail history of what happened—the Park Board decided to mothball the place.
[Later on they relented from neighborhood pressure]. I remember the day we drove by and there was a big sign outside outlining the renovations to the building and something about the pool. [Actually Joseph Spangler emailed me that the Park Board had let a contract to fill the pool with concrete to expand the inside “play area”]

But it was the efforts of the community who wasn’t going to take this anymore: This building needs to be here; look at all the children, the adults and the elders as well. When we elected new Minneapolis School Board members like Siad Ali, they helped greatly in bringing in the necessary funding to make this partnership with the Park Board and neighborhoods a reality! Siad Ali turned the boat around!

Although the pool was built to help youth learn not to drown, this pool represents far more than that! I’m hoping that you get a Silver Sneakers program here to help pay for daily use by elders who need the pool on a daily basis. It will also help with the cash flow and sustainability of the aquatics programs. As they say in Washington State, each day we come to use the pool, we are healthier than we were the day before. This is what this pool has to be about for the entire community becoming healthier each day. That’s why we have come together today, to make this happen! Thank you very much!

Many cultures and partnerships enrich this gathering place.
By SAHRA ALI

Sahra talked passionately about how many cultures came together and formed partnerships that made this great project and others possible. She gave heartfelt appreciation to all of the elected officials who helped neighborhood people find the funding and political means to make this pool happen.

All of the many speakers expressed admiration for the collaboration of so neighbors, organizations, funding sources, bureaucracies, and officials to bring this project to an amazing facility and success.

Wendell Phillips said, “Common sense doesn’t ask for an impossible chessboard; it takes the one before it and plays the game.” Hundreds of people did just that to revive this facility, that seemed like an impossible task, into THE PHILLIPS AQUATIC CENTER!

MURPHY BYRNE (MURPHYBYRNEPHOTOGRAPHY.COM) COURTESY OF MPLS. PARK & RECREATION BOARD

 

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