Lenexa again considers plan to permanently close Ad Astra Pool — what could replace it?

Lenexa pools

An outdoor aquatics study in Lenexa recommends upgrading Indian Trails Aquatic Center as the city's primary community pool. The study also recommends permanently closing Ad Astra Pool (above), a conclusion the city had already reached two years ago. Photo courtesy city of Lenexa.

Consultants for Lenexa’s outdoor aquatics study recommend the city upgrade Indian Trails Aquatic Center and eventually close Ad Astra Pool for good.

In a presentation Tuesday to the Lenexa City Council, representatives of Lenexa-based Waters Edge Aquatic Design said these two outdoor pools are aging and in need of attention.

But because Ad Astra Pool has recurring structural issues that are expensive to fix, and because it’s a mile from Indian Trails, the consultants recommend it be closed permanently.

“We don’t make that [recommendation] lightly,” said Jeff Bartley, principal of Waters Edge Aquatics Design. “We understand the Ad Astra neighborhood, it’s an important facility to those, but we do make this recommendation as what we believe is in the best interest of the community as a whole.”

Ad Astra Pool sits in Ad Astra Park, near 83rd Street and Maurer Road, close to Christa McAuliffe Elementary.

Consultant’s recommendations

No official decision was made Tuesday night.

Still, several city councilmembers expressed support for the idea of reinvesting in outdoor aquatics in a way that is fiscally responsible and serving all Lenexa residents — a notable caveat, considering the city’s three outdoor pools are all currently on the eastern, older side of the city.

Ad Astra Pool
Indian Trails Aquatic Center in Lenexa is slated to open no sooner than June 8 under the state’s phased reopening of the economy. Photo courtesy city of Lenexa.

If the city follows Waters Edge’s recommendations and closes Ad Astra Pool, Lenexa would be reducing its total water square footage from 43,400 to 29,600, which would be more in line with other, similar-sized cities.

Water Edge’s study concluded that the city’s pools are expensive to operate and heavily subsidized with little of the city’s costs recovered due to high ongoing expenses, low attendance and low revenue.

The city’s cost recovery — that is, the money it makes back from its pool programs — is about 60%. Waters Edge said it’s best to have at least 80% cost recovery.

Per the consultant’s recommendation, Lenexa should provide more attractive and less expensive water features, such as splash pads.

Eventually, Lenexa should invest in outdoor aquatics in the western part of the city, which has seen more population growth in recent years.

Here are the three recommendations from Waters Edge’s report:

  1. Improve Indian Trails Aquatic Center
    • Renovate with the goal of creating a modernized, community-wide aquatic center with the right mix of amenities
    • Include amenities and programs that are both important to residents and also currently unavailable
    • Design considerations for mixed-use, maximize time/space, and increased use
  2. Reduce total outdoor water square footage
    • Close Ad Astra Pool and repurpose into another recreational amenity for the city.
    • Ability to offer existing programs and add them to Flat Rock Creek Pool or Indian Trails.
    • Improve ability to staff and operate, financial conditions and efficiencies.
  3. Weigh future considerations
    • Study new opportunities in the upcoming parks and recreation master plan.
    • Offer splash pads.
    • Consider a new facility in the west as population and needs change.

A previous attempt to close Ad Astra

The recommendations come nearly two years after the city first moved to close Ad Astra Pool permanently.

Residents formed a coalition opposing its closure, eventually spurring the city to keep the pool open, while soliciting public input.

City staff at that time said Lenexa should keep Ad Astra Pool open for at least two more seasons while construction upgrades at Indian Trails were carried out. That would allow time for the city to gather public input on what would replace Ad Astra Pool, staff concluded.

“We understand the Ad Astra neighborhood, it’s an important facility to those, but we do make this recommendation as what we believe is in the best interest of the community as a whole,” said Jeff Bartley of Waters Edge Aquatic Design (right).

A handful of Lenexa residents spoke Tuesday, most of them in favor of keeping outdoor aquatics on the site of Ad Astra.

At issue though, is whether the city council will decide to shift toward a community-wide aquatics center with reinvestment in Indian Trails or instead focus on offering smaller neighborhood pools like Ad Astra and Flat Rock Creek Pool.

Most of the council appeared to lean in the direction of building up Indian Trails as a city-wide aquatics center.

Councilmember Courtney Eiterich did share some reservations with the recommendations, hoping to learn more about the possibility of building a new, smaller pool in place of Ad Astra.

Additionally, multiple councilmembers stressed the importance of having outdoor aquatics as well as collecting public input through the process.

“I think we’ve got to do the right thing here for the whole community: focus on one spectacular amenity, and that’ll be the eastern opportunity,” said Mayor Mike Boehm, “and someday, the folks on the west side will need a similar opportunity. We’re not there yet.”