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South Bend eyes new public pool at Kennedy Park thanks to federal grant

Picture of the splash pad/water play area currently at Kennedy Park. WIth a new federal grant, the city wants to build a new pool and aquatic center on the site.
Photo provided, City of South Bend
Picture of the splash pad/water play area currently at Kennedy Park. WIth a new federal grant, the city wants to build a new pool and aquatic center on the site.

One of South Bend’s poorest neighborhoods, Kennedy Park will soon get a new pool and significant park upgrades.

The improvements come in part from a $7.5 million grant from the National Park Service and the city is matching that amount for a total investment of close to $15 million. Kennedy Park currently features a play area with very shallow water that's mostly geared towards children.

But early designs for the new pool call for both a shallow children’s end as well as room for adults to swim laps. The plan to also build a concession area and bathhouse. The complex would have a capacity of 560 people.

Amy Roush is the chief development officer for the city’s Venues, Parks and Arts department. She said the city applied for the grant last year with an eye towards putting a pool back in Kennedy Park where the former Bendix Pool was closed more than 20 years ago.

"Because we have been awarded this grant, that allows us to be able to achieve more and be in line with what everyone would like to see happen in that area," Roush told WVPE on Friday.

In addition to the pool the city also wants to build a 10,000-square foot playground and add in some multi-use courts. The park is also home to South Bend's Animal Resources Center and the nearby Kennedy Academy school. With all of that put together, the city envisions making Kennedy Park a" destination" park that draws visitors from all over the city, similar to what Howard Park is in downtown.

“It will allow the city to make the park something that people outside of just that neighborhood will want to come and visit,” Roush said.

Construction is slated to start next summer and finish by the end of 2026. Funding from the city is part of the $34 million bond set aside for neighborhood improvements the city's common council passed last year.

The grant is part of the National Park Service’s Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership which is aimed at improving access to outdoor areas for those in disadvantaged areas of the county. The $7.5 million going to South Bend is part of nearly $60 million in total.

For South Bend, the Kennedy Park grant comes as the city is also investing $27 million into building the new Martin Luther King Dream Center on the other end of the neighborhood.

The announcement of a new pool also comes a few years after the city shut down the pool at Potawatomi Park due to water leaking out. Roush didn’t say if that pool will be repaired, but said the city is close to unveiling a River Park Neighborhood plan which will include a vision for the park overall.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.