Thursday, November 20, 2008

Midway Architecture Garden — Aquatics

It's the most underutilized geographic area in the Twin Cities. The Midway area is immediately adjacent to the bio-science zones of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, is situated within just a few miles of most of the major academic institutions in the Twin Cities and yet is populated with relatively low-value warehouses. An architecture garden would be a great way to serve the redevelopment interests of this area. So, what to put in it?

The Midway YMCA is looking for a new home. And the U of M's aquatic center is over booked. They'd like to see another competitive swim venue in the metro area for high school and other amateur meets. We need another aquatic center in the metro area.

The Water Cube in Beijing has demonstrated that a natatorium (a building dedicated to swimming) can be architecturally significant. While every college would like to have a swimming pool on campus, wouldn't the ability to use something of the calibre of the Water Cube draw more students from around the region and around the world to Twin Cities colleges, particularly if there were great transit access? 

The transit access is there or can be readily provided. What's needed is a cooperative effort to create a facility that can be shared by multiple schools and serve as a superior recruitment tool for all of them. Our focus shouldn't be on how one local school distinguishes itself from another local school, but in how all local colleges distinguish themselves from colleges around the world. Having an architecture garden whose facilities could serve the needs of area students would be a superior way to do that.

Different stakeholders will have different needs. Swim meets currently held at the U of M make use of the Olympic pool length. The smaller private colleges will generally only require a collegiate rather than Olympic-sized swimming pool. This could be readily accommodated with removable bulkheads. The YMCA doesn't want to pay to maintain a large Olympic pool. A new facility could still work for them. The aquatic centers built for the Sydney and Beijing Olympics and under construction for London's 2012 effort feature facilities that also include more recreationally oriented facilities as well as the competitive venues. Their revenue streams and usage generally complement one another.

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