The caves at the old Roeland Park swimming pool site are not going to be usable in a future development, according to engineering reports. But that does not mean the site cannot still be a suitable target for a redevelopment project.
The caves – which are really the result of a limestone mining operation and not natural caves – once housed the locker rooms for the old Roeland Park swimming pool. When the pool closed, the entrances were blocked with fill dirt. The city council had appropriated money to clear the area and have engineers determine if the rooms could be used in a future redevelopment such as a retail or entertainment venue.
Roeland Park Mayor Joel Marquardt, an architect, had started the discussion nearly one year ago with a drawing that showed the possibility of redeveloping the pool site and incorporating the caves into a venue that included a large public gathering space.
Once the brush was cleared from the pool site, engineers were able to enter the caves to make an assessment. That report indicated that the ceilings in the mine are not structurally able to support a redevelopment use, according to city administrator Keith Moody. The stone that has been subject to freeze and thaw cycles has been sloughing off and in several places shows water infiltration.
That does not mean the site cannot be redeveloped, Mood said. “There’s no question that you can develop it.” The next step is to determine if the cave area would be brought down and removed or filled to make it stable to support a structure. The city will get cost estimates for both of those options.
Between the level where the old pool was located and the top of the mine where the Roeland Park public works building sits is a 30-foot elevation difference. Moody pointed out that a multi-story building could have both a third floor entrance and a first floor entrance from different sides. Another option is to preserve the limestone walls as backdrop in a development.
During the cave evaluation, it was found that an area public works uses for outdoor storage behind its building extends over the top of the domes in the mine. That area was marked off and will not be used any longer because of questions about structural integrity.
See all the photos from the inside of the cave below: