Brennan Pool in the 1950s. (Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University)
Rouge Park is Detroit’s largest at 1181.39 acres (New York City’s Central Park, by comparison, is a measly 843 acres). It has an 18-hole golf course, a dozen ball diamonds, playgrounds and tennis courts each. Pretty big.
It’s hard to miss on a map but, if you haven’t been there, here it is (you can also located it on our map above):
And today, adding to the amenities it already boasts, Rouge Park got two more pieces to improving the Detroit parks puzzle…
The Brennan Pools!
The two Olympic-sized cement ponds have been renovated to the tune of more than $5 million. This project bridged public and private efforts, from Detroit to Lansing, which included three state House reps, the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department and Lear. The Detroit Free Press reported: “According to Dave Bing, Lear played one of the largest roles in making the project happen. Lear — a $17-billion company with offices in 36 countries — will always have a commitment to improving Detroit, said President and CEO Matthew Simoncini, who took over in September 2011 and helped complete numerous Detroit parks and recreation improvement projects.”
The pools and facilities also have a rich history, like many things in Detroit. In 1956, the U.S. Olympic swim team held trials in these pools.
From the official summaries of the trials in 1956, as archived by USASwimming.org, a report says: “The splendid equipment, excellent facilities and complete cooperation of the Detroit Olympic Committee could only result in the ideal meet inducing the best efforts from America’s outstanding competitors.”
Here’s what the pools looked like during the trials:
Fast-forward 55 years from 1956 to 2011, through decades of population loss and shrinking tax revenue, and we have these “excellent facilities” shutting down due to budget issues.
But now it’s open.
This is what Michigan Speaker of the House, Rep. Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, had to say:
“This pool represents a community coming together,” Bolger said. “I think about what these changes mean to the people in Detroit: a commitment to a brighter future for our kids. For I want the same thing for my kids that you want for your kids. This represents the future of that opportunity. This represents the future of the city of Detroit.
“And this represents the future of the state of Michigan. As we stand here today, the future is much brighter.”
And don’t forget to submit parks!
-Terry Parris Jr.