Roeland Park pool dome’s failure leads to closure of facility for the rest of the winter

Citizens getting a tour of the aquatic center in 2014. Photo via Roeland Park on Facebook.
Citizens getting a tour of the aquatic center in 2014. Photo via Roeland Park on Facebook.

By Holly Cook

The dome covering Roeland Park’s pool has failed, and the Aquatic Center will be closed for the remainder of the winter season, city staff said Monday during a Roeland Park governing body workshop.

The dome’s manufacturer recommended completely replacing the dome rather than repairing it, due to its age and wear. A total dome replacement is estimated to cost around $300,000.

Councilors Monday were also briefed on the decision of the Johnson County Park and Recreation District Board to not provide any additional funding assistance beyond the current agreement, set to end May 2019.

Currently JCPRD and Roeland Park split the operating cost and capital expenses associated with the pool. Without the subsidy Roeland Park can expect to spend about $416,000 to operate the pool starting in 2020. Capital expenses, such as repairs and improvements to the pool, would also need to be fully covered by the city.

In a letter to JCPRD, City Administrator Keith Moody pointed out that 75 percent of all pool users during its indoor season live in Johnson County, but not in Roeland Park specifically. Using that statistic, Roeland Park requested that JCPRD cover 75 percent of the operating loss of the pool during the indoor season only. Roeland Park would cover the remaining 25 percent in addition to 100 percent of the outdoor season.

“It clearly is a regional facility,” Moody said.

However, according to the Ad Hoc Aquatics Committee report, the JCPRD board “rejected our request in its entirety.”

Since 2014 the City, JCPRD, and the Kansas City Blazers swim team have spent almost $443,000 in capital expenses for the pool.

These costs have included replacing the dome heater/blower, repairing the pool water heater and the dome, painting the pool, and repairing the bulkhead.

Councilmember Michael Rhoades pointed out that the city and the Kansas City Blazers helped finance these expenses in good faith that the pool would remain open year-round through the end of the JCPRD contract.

Rhoades suggested that the city and the Blazers swim team should be reimbursed for their contributions, if the pool will not be open year-round.

Councilmember Teresa Kelly said it was clear the JCPRD’s business model has changed and pointed out they were opening new facilities.

“They are waiting this contract out and want to….cover their losses as well,” Kelly said.

In 2016 the Shawnee Mission School District gave preliminary approval for JCPRD to operate its planned Lenexa-based $20 million aquatic center, expected to open in Fall 2018.