After hearing resident complaints about planned closure, Lenexa will look into costs to rebuild Ad Astra Pool

Leah Wankum - August 7, 2019 11:32 am
Ad Astra Pool
Ad Astra Pool. Photo courtesy of city of Lenexa

After hearing from dozens of residents and acknowledging a grassroots petition that garnered more than 1,600 signatures, the city of Lenexa is looking to find out what it would cost to completely replace Ad Astra Pool.

City leaders and staff profusely apologized to the public at the Tuesday council meeting for miscommunication on plans to close Ad Astra Pool. Mayor Michael Boehm and councilmembers said they ultimately agreed with city staff’s decision not to reopen the pool after this season ended due to serious structural issues.

Lenexa Mayor Michael Boehm
Lenexa Mayor Michael Boehm

“Error by omission, not commission — no one on this governing body or this staff intentionally misled the public,” Boehm said. “We’ve never done that and we don’t do that.”

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The city council recently accepted a study that had three recommendations for the city’s aquatics — two of which called for closing Ad Astra Pool. However, city leaders stressed that nothing has been decided on what to do with the site — including the possibility of replacing Ad Astra Pool with a brand-new pool, a park or other public amenity.

The neighborhood pool is located at West 82nd Terrace and Maurer Road. City Manager Beccy Yocham said staff will also look into costs to keep Ad Astra Pool open next year while city staff and leaders deliberate further on long-term plans for the site.

The main concerns from people inside the chambers was with the quality and condition of the pool — multiple residents called it a “dump.” City leaders said they wanted to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars to cover all other city needs, including police, fire, infrastructure and investment in Old Town and the community and senior centers.

Meanwhile, residents who live near the pool said they would encourage, support and campaign for a bond issue to cover costs to rebuild Ad Astra Pool.

‘Save Ad Astra Pool Coalition’

Lenexa residents filled the council chambers Tuesday in support of saving Ad Astra Pool.

The council chambers were unusually full at the meeting, with roughly 180 residents attending in support of an effort to save Ad Astra Pool (most of them left after discussion ended, while the meeting continued). Many of those residents wore stickers labeled “Save Ad Astra Pool Coalition.”

Meanwhile, a grassroots petition on Change.org has garnered about 1,600 signatures.

Marie Riley
Lenexa resident Marie Riley spoke in support of saving Ad Astra Pool.

A combined 33 residents stood up to speak in support of keeping Ad Astra Pool. They cited a long list of benefits for keeping the pool and concerns with closing it. Among them:

  • Ad Astra doesn’t attract pool goers because it lacks amenities
  • Ad Astra serves people whose neighborhoods (homes associations) don’t have their own private pool
  • The pool acts as a gathering space for community and building lifelong friendships
  • The pool is accessible and walkable; pedestrians, including children, can get there safely without crossing busy streets but would have to cross those main thoroughfares if they walked to Indian Trails Aquatic Center
  • Concern with development and focus on City Center and west of I-435, and perceived lack of investment in Old Town and eastern Lenexa (especially with closure of Lackman Library and transfer of services to City Center Library)
  • Ad Astra serves daycares that bring busloads of children to the pool, which is less crowded than Indian Trails
  • Small town charm of neighborhood pools like Ad Astra
  • Improved home values for houses near the pool
  • Concerns that taking away entertainment like Ad Astra Pool could cause crime in the area by teens with nothing else to do

“I saw the report; no one can doubt that it needs to be badly just remodeled,” said Lenexa resident Marie Riley. “This (City Center) is all lovely and beautiful, and our library is lovely — but it’s been frustrating to see so much money poured into this; meanwhile I’m watching my pool, nothing’s being added, many things are being fixed but nothing that we could see that would draw more people in.

“So it’s frustrating to hear complaints about not enough people coming. Well, no one’s coming because, to be honest, Ad Astra is kind of a dump. We’re not just being nostalgic about our pool; we are residents with children who use the pool daily and truly believe it’s a need for our area.”

Rocky start to Ad Astra Pool has led to repeated pipe failures

City staff reported Lenexa spent $500,000 on Ad Astra improvements in 2012 and annually spends about $175,000 to $200,000 to maintain and operate the pool.

Ad Astra Pool
Lenexa city staff said Ad Astra Pool regularly experiences cracking of the concrete and piping. Photo courtesy of city of Lenexa

Yocham and Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation Logan Wagler, who led a presentation before the public comment period, again cited multiple problems with Ad Astra Pool, including:

  • Problems from the beginning, with poor engineering and construction of the pool in 1988 that resulted in a lawsuit the following year (the pool was built on fill, causing uneven surfaces and cracking)
  • Repeated pipe failures, concrete cracking
  • Low attendance and worst cost recovery of city-owned pools
  • Competition with nearby pools

Wagler noted that city staff does not recommend rebuilding a pool at Ad Astra because of its close location to other outdoor aquatics facilities (especially because it’s close to Indian Trails Aquatic Center when compared to the footprint of the entire city) and the poor site conditions.

Boehm acknowledged that the city has hit the “reset” button on Ad Astra Pool, but there’s no guarantee the pool will reopen next year — costs for maintenance and staffing for the pool are currently not in the 2020 budget.

“I don’t want you to leave here tonight thinking we’re going to build a pool,” Boehm said to the residents. “I’m not sure we’ll build a pool or not.”

City leaders said the city plans to continue taking input from residents through in-person public meetings and online as they decide next steps for the site of Ad Astra Pool. The site will be up for discussion when the city develops its capital improvement plan in October.

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