Reporting Reg Chapman
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Phillips neighborhood will see young swimmers in the water again after this legislative session’s bonding bill approved plans to renovate one of Minneapolis’ few public indoor swimming pools.
The Phillips Community Pool has been closed since 2008 and is in much need of repair. So Hannah Lieder took it upon herself to lead the push to save the pool in the highest poverty neighborhood in the city.
“Can you believe we got that money!” Lieder said Friday.
Lieder is celebrating after winning her two-year fight to bring back the pool, which is located inside the Phillips Community Center.
Since 2008, the pool has sat idle. But in its hay day, thousands of inner city children learned to swim there. A challenge by the park board to raise the funds to restore it sent Lieder (and others who call Phillips home) into action.
“None of us had any experience working, doing anything over at the Capitol,” Lieder said. “We weren’t connected, we weren’t powerful; we certainly weren’t rich.”
But that didn’t stop them from fighting for their neighborhood.
Last year, the pool was included in the bonding bill, but with the government shut down, all local projects were removed.
What made Lieder continue to fight are the statistics. Almost amazingly, in the City of Lakes, there is not one public indoor swimming pool.
It’s estimated that 15,000 children live within walking distance of the pool in the Phillips neighborhood. But with the pool closed, there is little-to-no opportunity for them to learn to swim.
Moreover, Phillips is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city; and with Minnesota having some of the highest drowning rates in the country, Lieder feels renovating the pool will save lives.
“From 2000-2005, we had the highest African-American drowning rate,” she said said. “We have the third highest Native American drowning rate.”
Lieder has big plans for the pool. For instance, she wants to install a warm-water, shallow area where children can learn basic swimming techniques.
Lieder was able to successfully lobby to get the funding in the House, Senate and governor’s version of the bonding bill. A little more than $2 million will be spent to get the project underway.