Would South Bend taxpayers support up to $25 million worth of park improvements?
South Bend hasn’t floated a bond to keep pace in the parks since 1972, and some feel it’s time to do it again.
“Between 1958, and 1972, we had six park bonds,” said Parks Director Phil St. Clair. “Those were renaissance years for the park department in South Bend, we had the pools were built at that time, the ice rink was built at that time.”
According to St. Clair, the current cost of needed park upgrades could run as high as $25 million. “Currently Fort Wayne and Evansville alone are in the $14 to $25 million range with specific park bonds and re-occurring park bonds, I would like to think that our range would be similar.”
The need for repairs is more urgent at some South Bend park facilities than others. Today, piece by plastic piece, crews continued to replace another round of rusted pipes in the cooling system of the old Howard Park ice rink. “You’ve got 55 years of carrying salt through these lines, they’re going to rust out on you,” said St. Clair.
With another $60 thousand being spent on rink repairs this year, St. Clair feels it’s time to bite the bullet and rebuild the rink at a cost of $1.5 to $2 million. “I think we all recognize that we're going to have to put some major resources into this facility if we're going to keep it open for the future.”
‘Keeping it open’ is no longer a possibility at the Newman Recreation Center. A Halloween party planned for last weekend had to be cancelled, and the reason is a scary one, according to St. Clair. “We’ve had a mold problem that's been growing over there and felt that due to the recent mold problem that we discovered that we were going to go ahead and close the facility until we got it cleaned up.”
At this point, St. Clair would like to demolish the Newman and build a new recreation center at Pinhook Park. “We have two rec centers on the west side and we have one on the south side and it would be nice to distribute all our resources throughout the city so Pinhook makes for a great location.”
St. Clair also mentioned the possibility of adding a splash pad at Potawatomi pool, and making improvements to the Charles Black Center.
While the idea of bonding for park improvements has been discussed, it is not ready to be acted on. St. Clair estimates that wouldn’t happen until next spring at the earliest. “I just think it’s something that we as a community need to take a look at.”