For almost 20 years now, the city of Bloomington has been discussing the various issues of its Creekside Community Center at 98th and Penn Avenue. Nearly 60 years since it was constructed, it has gradually become more painfully obvious that something needs to be done to make it more user friendly to a much larger, older and more diverse population than the former elementary school was originally designed for. In 2014, with that in mind, the city hired HGA Architects & Engineers to evaluate the facility and propose solutions.
The study submitted by HGA in April of 2015 recommended that the old center could not be expanded or redesigned to fit the new population of users because the building was simply too old and the lot size was too small. The most economical course was to construct a new facility on a larger piece of land, specifically designed to accommodate the larger and more diverse population of user groups. The proposed new center could include a wide range of family oriented facilities such as walking/running tracks, gymnasium, swimming and soaking pools, meeting/conference rooms and offices, storage rooms, auditorium, library, weight training room, dance/aerobics studio, and child care facilities to name just a few.
With the engineering report in hand, the city formed a 17-member Community Center Task Force of user groups and residents and began to search for a site for the new facility. They very soon settled on the space across 90th Street from the baseball fields between Nicollet and Portland Avenues. Owned by the Bloomington School District, and with that property transfer yet to be approved, the space appears to provide an opportunity for the city to team up with the district to share the burdens and benefits of the facility. Soon afterward, in an effort to mitigate the burden on taxpayers, the city began to search for other partners as well, and settled on the YMCA.
In late 2016 the city recommended that the YMCA be invited to consider a partnership in the development and operation of the new center. In August of 2017 the City of Bloomington, the YMCA and the Bloomington School District entered into a “Memorandum of Understanding” to map out the details going forward with the partnership to build and share the expanded Community Center.
As a part of the same Task Force report, it was also recommended that the city solicit feedback by surveying the community to get a clearer picture of how, and how often, the facility might be used by the residents and user groups of the area. This would effectively verify or supplement the market research data included in the HGA report of 2015 and get an updated picture of what to expect user demand to actually be.
Going forward in the coming weeks and months, there will very likely be a number of opportunities for public comment and input on this slow-moving and very complex project. The amount of money to be spent was estimated by the 2015 engineering report at $41+ million and no one is expecting that figure to go down. The best news about this process is that it seems very deliberate and very open to meaningful input by a wide range of diverse constituencies.
In fact, at some point down the road, this may prove to be the model for how these projects should get done: very slow, very open and with as many partners as possible.