Roeland Park City Council approves new blower to inflate dome at aquatic center, told subsidy deal with county may end in 2018

Roeland Park Aquatic Center is a cooperative venture between the city and the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District
Roeland Park Aquatic Center is a cooperative venture between the city and the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District

The Roeland Park City Council approved spending an estimated $52,000 to replace a broken blower/heater required to inflate the dome at the city Aquatic Center Monday, but the future of the facility also was a topic.

The Aquatic Center at 4843 Rosewood Dr. has been a cooperative venture between the city and the Johnson County Parks and Recreation Department since bonds were issued to build the facility in 1996.

As part of the agreement, the city and the county equally share the cost of capital costs and any budget shortfalls. That shortfall has averaged $400,000 annually, with the city and county paying $200,000 each.

The cooperative agreement between the city and the county parks district will expire at the end of 2018, when the aquatic center bond is paid off.

And City Administrator Keith Moody said the county has indicated it wants to end the subsidy arrangement.

“Johnson County has indicated they would prefer not to be in a position to cover shortfalls and half the capital costs after this term expires,” Moody said. “They are still willing to operate it.”

The county parks district also recently agreed to operate a new, $20 million indoor competition pool complex the Shawnee Mission School District has agreed to build at Lenexa City Center.

That facility, which would offer many of the same features as the Roeland Park Aquatic Center, is expected to open in Fall 2018.

The Roeland Park Aquatic Center is popular year round, particularly during the winter when its unique inflatable dome allows swim meets and classes to continue uninterrupted. Among the groups using it are Bishop Miege High School and the Blazers swimming club.

The dome generally is inflated after the summer outdoor swimming season and removed around Memorial Day. The inflation is currently delayed until a new blower/heater is installed.

During the discussion about the new blower/heater, Councilmember Michael Rhoades proposed the city seek a five-month extension of the cooperative agreement with the county through May 31, 2019, the end of the enclosed swimming season.

Rhoades said the extension would at least keep the county involved in helping fund the facility until the end of 2018-19 indoor swimming season.

His amendment was defeated. Council members were concerned negotiations with the county to extend the agreement would delay the purchase of the blower/heater.

“Normally the dome would be going up now, but it needs this repair,” said Councilmember Teresa Kelly.

Council members did instruct city staff to prepare a detailed financial analysis with an eye toward future discussions about how the aquatic center will be operated after the county agreement expires in two years.

Moody noted the current $400,000 budget shortfall would be a “substantial” sum for Roeland Park to assume.

“All the different agencies that use it during the winter need to be involved,” he said.

The Roeland Park Aquatic Center needs a new blower/heater to inflate its dome.
The Roeland Park Aquatic Center needs a new blower/heater to inflate its dome.