Shawnee Mission planning to break ground on new $27.8 million Lenexa aquatic center in October

A rendering of the aquatic center looking from the southeast.

After more than two years of planning, the Shawnee Mission Board of Education on Monday approved the contracts that clear the way for work to begin on a $27.8 million aquatic center in the heart of Lenexa’s new city center next month.

The aquatic center will provide a state-of-the-art home for the district’s swimming programs to host meets. At present, the district rents time from the Olathe School District at its aquatics facility when it needs to host an event because none of the district’s facilities will accommodate the competitors and crowds high school swim meets draw.

The center will sit directly north of the Lenexa Recreation Center across 87th Street Parkway, and will have space to host meets with up to 500 competitors and 1,000 spectators. The arena includes a 50 meter competitive pool with a 16-foot-depth diving well at one end and two bulkheads, which allow for a variety of configurations. Adjacent to the competitive pool is a 25 yard pool which will be used for training and recreation activities. The spectator seating area sits on a mezzanine level overlooking the pools. There is also a climate controlled observation deck where spectators can go to get out of the humidity during an hours-long meet.

Through a partnership with the city of Lenexa, the district will pay for half the cost of a $4.4 million two-story parking garage for the center, and the city will pay the other half, pending city council approval in October. Johnson County Park and Recreation District will operate the center when it is not in use by the district, providing a location for county swimming programs. The district’s share of the total — approximately $25.7 million — will be paid with proceeds from the $223 million bond issue approved by district patrons in January 2015.

The district had initially targeted a parcel of land on the SM South campus as the location for its aquatic center when planning began in 2015. But after push back from some SM South patrons who were concerned about the center’s potential impact on the environmental education lab there and the opening of a possibility to build near the new Lenexa city center development, the district shifted the location for the project. Lenexa, which owned the land north of the recreation center valued at approximately $1 million, agreed to convey the land to the district without charge.

Eric Wade, Lenexa’s City Administrator, told the board that the city believed its partnership with the district on the project amplified the value of the new center to their overlapping constituencies.

“When we thought about working with you all on this, it’s a sense of community that instilled in us the importance of being your partner on this, because we serve the same people,” Wade said.

At Monday’s board of education meeting, representatives of ACI Boland, the firm that designed the building, gave a virtual tour of the new aquatic center. You can see it below: