Lenexa concludes aquatics study, recommends closing Ad Astra Pool and building central water park

Ad Astra Pool
Ad Astra Pool is closing at the end of the 2019 season.

Lenexa has completed a study of its aging aquatics facilities, and city staff are recommending a cost-efficient solution: To close Ad Astra Pool and build a centralized waterpark and a couple of splash parks throughout the city.

The Lenexa council on Tuesday unanimously accepted the results of the study and city staff’s recommendation, but ultimately agreed they want more discussion and public input before dedicating any funds toward aquatics improvements.

Gary Ristow, Lenexa parks and recreation director

After completing an internal audit a few years ago of the city’s pools, the city in 2018 hired Waters Edge Aquatic Design for $42,900 to conduct a study of the city’s aquatics systems. Waters Edge found that two of the city’s pools, which are more than two decades old, are dated and in need of repairs.

City staff recommended Option 3, the central water park approach, as a cost-efficient solution to addressing the city’s aging aquatics systems. Here is a list of the three options.

  1. Neighborhood approach: Includes maintaining the existing facilities in their current locations, while adding an additional appropriately-sized facility to serve the western population. Approximate cost to build: $15-17 million. Approximate cost recovery: 66% with $200,000 annual deficit. New water surface area: 50,000 square feet.
  2. Regional approach: Includes closing one of the three outdoor pools (Ad Astra pool) and replacing it with a new central-western regional facility. Approximate cost to build: $21 million to $25 million. Approximate cost recovery: 83% with $115,000 annual deficit. New water surface area: 40,000 square feet.
  3. Central water park approach (staff recommendation): Includes closing two existing facilities (Ad Astra and Indian Trails Aquatic Center) and replacing them with a large centrally located aquatic center, and adding two splash parks. Approximate cost to build: $21-25 million (same as regional approach). Approximate cost recovery: 88% with $85,000-92,000 annual deficit. New water surface square footage: 30,000-32,000 square feet.

Looking for sustainability in costs

City staff noted one goal of the aquatics study was to find more self-sufficiency, sustainability and cost recovery for operations of the pools.

Currently, the city’s outdoor aquatics facilities have 43,400 square feet of total water surface, low attendance and a low cost recovery (about 60 percent of revenue-to-expenses). The study notes the pools lack modern amenities, and their large water surface size results in large expenses.

Councilmember Tom Nolte said he believes the changing demographics of Lenexa show less of a need for aquatics facilities than in years past, noting that apartment complexes and subdivisions have their own pools.

“I don’t see the enthusiasm for pools that I used to see earlier,” Nolte said.

In response to Nolte’s comments, Gary Ristow, Lenexa parks and recreation director, said the city pools offer more amenities and attractions than the smaller, privately owned pools.

Altogether, the council showed support for aquatics improvements and adding splash parks, but acknowledged the need for public input before moving forward. City leaders and staff also noted that the city is juggling several other large capital improvement projects as well, such as improvements to the community and senior centers and Complete Streets.

“I think we need a little bit more discussion, and I think that there is some loss to that part of the community that we need to be cognizant of,” said Councilmember Andy Huckaba, citing the potential closing of Indian Trails pool and converting it into a splash park.

Ad Astra Pool at 8265 Maurer Road is in its last season. To commemorate the pool’s three decades of history in Lenexa, the city is offering free admission to Ad Astra for Lenexa residents from July 29 to Aug. 4 as well as a few other family pool activities that week.

City staff noted that Lenexa intends to repurpose the property of Ad Astra Pool for a public use.

The council will consider an aquatics improvements plan during discussions for the city’s capital improvements program. Those discussions begin in October.