Roeland Park approves plan to move forward with aquatic center dome replacement — but city now has ‘weight on its shoulders’


By Holly Cook

The Johnson County Park and Recreation District will move forward replacing the Roeland Park Aquatic Center’s dome, despite uncertainty on whether the city can continue year-round operations of the pool after May 2019. The dome was damaged beyond repair during an October wind storm and the pool has remained closed since.

At Monday’s meeting councilors voted 5-2 in favor of instructing JCPRD to file an insurance claim to have the dome replaced. Councilmembers Becky Fast, Tom Madigan, Jennifer Hill, Jim Kelly and Michael Poppa voted in favor of the motion while councilmembers Tim Janssen and Claudia McCormack voted against it. Councilmember Erin Thompson was absent from the meeting.

JCPRD signed off on the dome replacement during its Jan. 18 board meeting. JCPRD director Jill Geller said if everything goes smoothly and the replacement process begins this week the dome could potentially be installed by late October 2018.

“We are working fast and furiously to get that done,” Geller said.

JCPRD will pay a $25,000 insurance deductible for the dome’s replacement and will also repair or replace damaged light fixtures. Geller said the board did not say anything about the light fixture replacement being a shared expense with Roeland Park.

Mayor Mike Kelly said he thought it was important the city and JCPRD followed through with the promise to maintain the pool’s year-round operation until at least May 2019 and said he was thankful the JCPRD board agreed to replace the dome.

Janssen was present at the JCPRD board meeting and noted that the dome replacement was discussed directly after a briefing on the planned $28-million Lenexa aquatic center, which is being built by the Shawnee Mission School District but will be operated by JCPRD.

“I hope the irony wasn’t lost on anyone in that room…,” Janssen said.

After the city’s joint-funding agreement with JCPRD ends in May 2019, Roeland Park can expect to spend at least $416,000 each year to keep the pool open year-round.

McCormack said the city would need to get “really creative” to account for the financial losses it would face from continued year-round operations of the pool.

“We have a lot of weight on our shoulders now,” she said.

Fast made a motion for the city to put out an RFP to initiate a year-long professional planning process to vet various options for the pool’s future.

Councilmember Kelly supported Fast saying “I agree we need to get as much expertise as we can.”

Fast’s motion passed.

The council also voted in favor of restoring the pool advisory committee and appointed councilmembers Madigan, McCormack and Kelly to serve. The remaining four members will be appointed by Johnson County.

Hill reminded councilors they still needed to provide JCPRD with a specific subsidy request, and suggested the city start by asking if the county would continue providing the manpower to set up and tear down the dome for the indoor season.

Janssen said he thought the board seemed pretty supportive of that idea during their meeting and that they had indicated the assistance would be thought of as an in-kind donation.

In addition to requesting the dome set up and tear down, Mayor Kelly recommended the council have a request for JCPRD with a dollar amount ready by May 1.