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Rec center pool may close during construction

NEW ULM–The New Ulm Park and Recreation Commission received a Reinvest in New Ulm (RENU) update. The Recreation Center project might need to close the aquatic facility to save money during the improvements.

The RENU projects at the Recreation Center include the aquatic improvements, indoor playground, regional gymnastic center and fitness center. This project is in the final phase of design and will come before the city council in February for approval and bidding in late winter.

Commissioner and City Councilor Dave Christian informed the commission the city may need to decide whether to close the aquatic center during the Recreation Center construction.

The original plan was to keep the old recreation center pool open while the new aquatic center was constructed, but the city’s construction management team believes the city could save money by closing the pool.

Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said closing the south campus of the Recreation Center could save significant costs by having the contractor come in once. The racquetball courts, the fieldhouse and cardio center would remain open. Only the central and southern parts of the facility would be closed, but this closure could last six to nine months.

This is a new concept being discussed, but no official decision has been made. The oversight commission will make a recommendation to the council for final approval.

Schmitz said Johnson Park is 80% complete. The general contractor will finish off the final elements during the winter and spring. The project is on schedule to be completed by summer.

The Hermann Heights improvements designs are being finalized and will go before the council in February to bid the project. These improvements include the relocation of Monument Street off the crest of Center Street hill. A paved parking lot will be added with coach bus access.

The Hermann Heights retaining wall is also planned for reconstruction, but RENU funds will not be used for the wall. If the project is bid this winter, construction can begin this summer.

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The commission received an update on the German Park amphitheater, including a new video that will air on New Ulm Cable Access Television. The new video gave a quick history of German Park and efforts to complete the amphitheater.

The amphitheater improvements cost $1.2 million with $800,000 already raised in donations. Park and Recreation are still seeking funding to cover the remaining costs. Friends of German Park are behind funding efforts. Schmitz said they are optimistic the project will come together financially. The goal is to begin construction this summer.

Schmitz said the amphitheater is not only a musical venue, but also a place for a theatrical production. It is New Ulm’s only outdoor performing arts venue. The amphitheater can also be used for movies in the park, community events, and weddings.

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Park and Recreation received $235,133 in cash donations this last month. This included $227,363 for the German Park amphitheater; $200 for German Park paver stones, $300 for the Hermann 5K sponsorship, $3,500 for the Riverside Park Environmental Learning Center programs; $2,000 for the Riverside Park building ADA ramp and deck; $1,000 for the emerald ash borer removals; $750 for buckthorn removals and $20 for the dog park. These donations were forwarded to the city council.

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