MPS should invest in Phillips pool to create equitable access


Photo Courtesy of: Denny Bennett

This is the proposed design for the Phillips pool rennovation that would inlcude a full eight lane competetive lap pool. This plan could be possible if the Minneapolis Public Schools board matches the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Boards $2.5 million investment.

“The pool is on the fourth floor.” If you’ve ever been to South you probably know we don’t have a fourth floor, nor a pool, but alas this persists as a joke to tell incoming Freshmen. What isn’t a joke is the actual lack of pools, and swimming accessibility in Minneapolis as a whole.

Minneapolis has one public pool per 131,000 people. Minneapolis only has a total of 11 public indoor lanes, which are located at a six lane pool at Southwest High School and a 5 lane pool at Northeast Middle School. These two locations are across the city from each other in some of the most financially stable neighborhoods in the city. This means that areas of higher poverty have less immediate access to aquatic facilities, and transportation to other areas of the city where there is availability can be problematic.

For some time there have been discussions of rehabilitating the Phillips Community Center pool as a place for residents of South Minneapolis to access swimming lessons, and a home for the South Roosevelt and Washburn competitive swim team. It seemed like this dream would become a reality when the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) voted to move forward with proposed renovations last month.

The MBRB approved $2.5 million to build a six lane pool. A proposal was sent to the Minneapolis Public Schools board to match this grant in order to build an eight lane competition size pool, in addition to the $150,000 annual operating expenses that have already committed to.

While the school board has been backing the project for some time, Interim Superintendent Michael Goar has some misgivings. A Star Tribune article stated, “At a recent finance committee meeting, Goar told several board members that the district should not be investing so much in any single sport, or any single facility, before the district looks at its entire athletic facility needs.”

This isn’t like investing in new jerseys for the football team. Swimming is more than a sport, it is also a life skill. The Centers for Disease Control marks drowning as the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children between the ages of 1 and 14. According to an article by the American Journal of Public Health, African American children between the ages of 5-19 drown at a rate 5 times that of white children. These numbers are inexcusable, and if there is something we can do here in Minneapolis to make a difference, by all means we should be doing it.

Increasing all around participation in competitive swimming can also make a difference. A study at the University of Minnesota found that when there is a higher participation among a group in competitive swimming there is a decrease in the amount of drowning deaths among that group. Not only are there racial disparities in drowning deaths, but there are even larger racial disparities in participation in competitive swimming. In 2012, out of 7,890 year round competitive swimmers registered from Minnesota with USA Swimming, only 16 were African American, around 2%.

Swimming is beneficial in other ways as well. An article by the Star Tribune noted, “Aside from public safety, community pools offer added boosts. Swimmers are tops in graduation rates and GPAs. A community pool cuts down on crime by giving kids a healthy gathering place. It creates jobs.” This is true when it comes to South’s swim team. This year the South Varsity girls’ collective GPA was 3.98, earning them an academic award in Section 6AA.

This pool would be more than a fancy athletic facility. It would not only improve competitive swimming in Minneapolis, but increase accessibility to a life saving skill.


Read more about the Phillips pool story here.