Roeland Park seeking feedback from pool-goers on future for aging aquatic center

Roeland Park hosted an open house Tuesday, July 24, to get feedback from pool-goers on Roeland Park Aquatic Center.

The Roeland Park Aquatic Center is aging, falling apart and increasingly subsidized. Recognizing these difficulties, Roeland Park is conducting a study of the facility and collecting feedback from residents in an informal survey of what they think of the facility and what changes they’d like to see.

The city is preparing to take fully operational responsibility for the aquatic center next year following Johnson County Park Recreation District’s decision to end its financial support for the facility. The city has hired Waters Edge Aquatic Design, the Lenexa-based engineering and design firm, for $31,100 to conduct the survey as well as an operational study of the pool site.

Roeland Park hosted an open house Tuesday night to solicit feedback from residents and pool-goers on ideas for the future of the pool. A survey for pool users stays open until Aug. 5.

Barbara Ludwig, a Roeland Park resident who takes water fitness classes at the pool, said she’d like to see the pool season extend to the end of August. She said she greatly appreciates the opportunity to give input through the survey and open house.

“I feel like they haven’t been listening to us,” Ludwig said. “There’s been no official way to give feedback. You’ve got to have a way to get your comments heard.”

Feedback from pool-goers on features they’d like to have in a pool.

Built in 1998, the Roeland Park Aquatic Center was operating under a 20-year agreement between Roeland Park and Johnson County Park and Recreation District. The district’s involvement in operating the facility ends in May 2019.

The aquatic center has many challenges, including decreasing attendance and increasing maintenance costs. In recent years, it has been repainted, broken valves and drains have been repaired, and concrete and roofing have been replaced.

Yet other problems still need attention, including the diving boards, light fixtures and a broken pipe on the spray feature. The dome and whale slide are damaged beyond repair. Roeland Park budgeted $28,940 for pool maintenance in 2018, according to city records on capital improvement plans.

The study, which began in April and continues to the end of October, includes an analysis of current operations, budgets, programming, usage and a physical assessment of the facility. In-ground pools are generally projected to last anywhere from 20 to 30 years or more. They “don’t last forever,” said Lauren Ozburn, an operations analyst at Waters Edge, adding that the firm will study the pool and check “what isn’t operating at current standards.”

Waters Edge will also conduct a market analysis, look at future operating options and analyze opinions from Roeland Park residents and pool-goers who are participating in an informal survey.

“Public engagement is a big part of the study,” Ozburn said. “In a study like this, it would be a disservice for any group to assume how people use this pool and how they expect or want to use this pool.”

Roeland Park resident Barbara Ludwig, left, asks Lauren Ozburn with Waters Edge about the study of the Roeland Park Aquatic Center, where Ludwig takes water fitness classes.

Besides open swim, water fitness and swimming lessons, the Roeland Park Aquatic Center offers a training space for the Stingrays swim team. Ozburn said she’s heard from a diverse group of pool-goers, including families, competitive swimmers and water fitness users.

“They each have their own need, but they each have an interest and passion for the aquatic center,” Ozburn said. “It’s a diverse group who really appreciates this pool and has an interest in submitting comment on it.”

Some pool users said they are happy with the pool the way it is, while others would like to see changes. Families, for instance, would like the city to convert the wading pool in the kiddie area into a splash pad element, and also remove the sand from that area. Others would like the city to repurpose the vortex pool, which isn’t very popular.

The public survey will now be open until Aug. 5 (the original end date was July 31). Residents can either submit their results online or directly email Ozburn at Survey results will be available when the study is complete this fall.