Published Date: June 29,2022
By Line: Michelle D Jensen
Published in: Chronotype

The city is out of the pool business after Thursday, but plans to build a new Aquatics Center in place of the existing community swimming pool cleared a hurdle Thursday that could have sunk the project and a Rice Lake bank gave it a major boost with a $250,000 donation on Friday.

The nonprofit Rice Lake Aquatics and Recreational Center, Inc. is raising funds to build and own a new two-indoor-pool center with community locker rooms to the north of the existing public swimming pool next to Hilltop Elementary School.

But for plans to proceed, the nonprofit group needed the Zoning Board of Appeals to approve off-street parking and parking lot setback variances when it met Thursday afternoon. Without the OK, the project could not have moved forward, said Pat Blackaller, finance and operations director for the Rice Lake Area School District, which is the nonprofit’s partner in the project.

The Board OK’d a variance on the parking lot’s setback, allowing the lot to be built right up to the sidewalk. More importantly, it accepted 73 new parking spaces as adequate. Without that approval the project effectively would have ground to a halt because there was no other solution, Blackaller said.

“There was no opportunity to put parking anyplace else,” he said. “The only other place is around the back of the building, and that’s our playground.”

The Zoning Board’s decision came one week ahead of the last day an operating agreement for the existing pool was in place between the school district and the city of Rice Lake.

The school district will run the community pool in the interim so long as no catastrophic mechanical failures throw a monkey wrench into operations, Blackaller said.

In the meantime, the building will continue to belong to the city, which has agreed to renovate it into a gym space with a walking track, community rooms and other amenities at a cost of approximately $2 million, per a resolution agreement.

City Administrator Curt Snyder said his “best guess” was that the $2 million borrowing for renovating would occur in 2025, thereby allowing the School District the rest of 2022 to get its financing together and use 2023-24 for design and construction.

If the new aquatics facility is completed in 2024 or, even, 2023, then the city will proceed with the renovation on an accelerated timeline and issue a resolution allowing for it to reimburse itself with the 2025 borrowing, Snyder said.

Now that the parking question has been settled, the partners will dive fully into designing the pool and raising funds. JLG Architects of Minneapolis has been contracted for the design process, and V&S Construction Services of Rice Lake is the construction manager. Blackaller thinks ground could be broken in spring.

The nonprofit is working on several funding options, the finance director said. In the meantime, a $250,000 donation from Dairy State Bank on Friday gave a push toward its fundraising goal of about $1.25 million.

“I think our committee is excited for the opportunity this will bring to the community,” Blackaller said. “We’ve got the school district, the nonprofit and the city working to get this done, so that’s another positive.”

Michelle D Jensen


Exterior Rendering


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