Top ten things to do with an old swimming pool

Why do people fill in swimming pools? Several predictable reasons: they don’t want the expense or the work of maintaining them; they consider the pools dangerous; they don’t swim; they do swim.

The more interesting question is: What if you didn’t bust up the concrete with a jackhammer, haul in a bunch of dirt, and fill up the hole? What if you did something else with your old swimming pool?

I ask the question because the University of Minnesota just knocked down Norris Hall on the east bank campus,

Norris Hall. University of Minnesota photo.

and Norris Hall had two old pools. I used to swim in one of them.

Norris Hall pool. University of Minnesota photo.

I watched wistfully the other day as dump trucks delivered dirt, and backhoes pushed the dirt around,

Demolition of Norris Hall

and I wondered whether there wasn’t something more interesting than turning old pools into “green space,” which is the university’s plan.

Top Ten Things To Do With an Old Swimming Pool:

  • 10. Set up a fish farm. Tilapia, for example. Or in the university’s case, turn the genetic engineers loose and develop a new kind of fish.
  • 9.  Turn the pool into a bunker. I won’t even provide the link to the survivalist websites that suggested this option.
  • 8. Create a rainwater collection pit. The university’s gardeners could draw water from it for nearby thirsty plants. So ecological!
  • 7. Leave it alone and advertise it as a subject for photographers. I am inclined to photograph old, rusty stuff, but abandoned pools — I was a little surprised to see this idea rattling around the Internet.
  • 6. Create a greenhouse. A great idea, especially for a university with so many ties to the world of horticulture. Sure, most of those folks are on the St. Paul campus, but they could take the campus shuttle.
  • 5. Switch back and forth: swimming pool in the summer, skating rink in the winter. If they can do this in New York, we in Minnesota can do it better.
  • 4. Turn it into a sunken garden.  Why should St. Paul have all the great sunken gardens? Time for Minneapolis to step up.
  • 3. Take a deep breath and turn it into a skate park. If this isn’t immediately obvious, think of the ramp from a pool’s shallow end to deep end. Perfect.

Norris Hall pool. University of Minnesota photo.

  • 2. Turn it into a giant ball pit. If this seems more appropriate for little kids than college kids, time to rethink:

And my favorite thing to do with an old swimming pool:

  • 1.  Make a water lily pond. I truly love this idea despite its lack of pizazz. There is a shortage of ponds on the east bank campus. This would have been a lovely spot for water lilies and frogs, so close to East River Road and overlooking the Mississippi River. Many people have successfully turned pools into ponds, but I was especially taken with the down-to-earth, down-under tale told by an Australian family. Their old pool had the usual baggage — too much work, too much expense, nobody swam. But the problem of what to do with it “sat in the too-hard basket for several months.” I have baskets like that. They finally succeeded. Check out their story. I would love to visit that family and see that pond.

P. S. I have written several times about the sand dredged out of the Mississippi by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The city of Minneapolis told me that the sand was good for filling demolition holes. You guessed it.

Lisa Peters photo

The university filled up a pool I used to swim in with my sand.

I swear, I didn’t plan this.








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