From free splash parks to fancy pools, the Northland has choices for summer fun

06/10/2014 12:27 PM

06/18/2014 2:33 PM

Temperatures are on the rise, and the glory days of summer are here. A quick spring and the promise of hot months ahead have already created perfect conditions for those ready to hit outdoor pools, beaches and splash parks.

Although there are many private and fee-based water facilities in the Northland, the public spaces that promise quick-fix day-rate dips for cool refreshment are always popular. They range in price from just a few dollars to about the cost of a movie. Some have had success with old, reliable features that have been around for decades, and others have been spruced up to meet the modern needs of families.

All promise fun in the sun and a quick cool-off on a hot day.

The Springs Aquatic Center

The Springs Aquatic Center is the biggest public pool option north of the Missouri River. The partnership between the Kansas City and Platte County Parks and Recreation departments opened seven years ago and offers quite a bit more than just a place to swim.

It includes two large water slides, a kid-friendly shallow-spray playground, and a larger pool with high and low dives for general swimming. Swimmers can also grab an inner tube and float along the lazy river, or they can try out the vortex, a shallow area that spins a whirlpool.

Terry Rynard, deputy director of Kansas City Parks and Recreation, says The Springs was built to offer something a little more than just a pool to the Northland.

“It adds a little more activity … a little more variety and excitement and newness to the aquatics experience,” says Rynard.

The advantage of The Springs is the variety it offers for swimmers of all ages. It is, however, a little more expensive than most. It is also so large it can make tracking young swimmers going in different directions a difficult task for parents. Swimmers who just want someplace for their morning laps can use the 50-meter pool from 7 to 9 a.m. for just $2.

Gladstone municipal pool

A large flume slide and spray area are also part of the Gladstone municipal pool. It is not as large as The Springs but still offers some extra fun beyond dunking and diving.

Although there has been a pool in Gladstone’s Central Park for nearly 40 years, the current offering there was updated in 2007, thanks to a quarter-cent sales tax. Community Center administrator Justin Merkey says the goal of the renovations was to create a safe place for families with kids. That meant replacing two old wading pools with a spray ground and dumping bucket, and creating a zero-depth entry in the main pool.

The renovations have been popular. They serve about 45,000 swimmers each year.

“I think you find it’s doing exactly what we wanted it to do. We have more young families come out. We have them coming with little ones. They don’t have to be in deep water,” says Merkey.

They also try to keep the price economical, at $6 per person on a day rate. An admission fee to the outside pool will not gain swimmers entry into the community center pools. There is, however, a day rate of $6 for the interior pool at the community center as well, which gives swimmers a rainy-day option.

Liberty Community Center

The day rate at the Liberty Community Center, which has been around for 22 years, gives swimmers access to four pools. The six-lane outdoor pool is partnered with a companion toddler pool.

Although there is zero-depth entry on the fenced toddler pool as well as a spray fountain, the main pool is a basic lap-lane set-up with no frills. For a low-dive, small slide and climbing wall, swimmers have to venture indoors. For cooler days, there is also a shallow warm-water interior pool.

Although day rates of $7.25 for adults and $5.50 for youth 18 and younger allow swimmers access to other amenities at the community center, the midrange cost does not make it the most economical for those just looking to cool off in the summer sun. However, it is the only public pool option in Liberty.

Line Creek pool

Kansas City Parks and Recreation reopened the pool at Line Creek Community Center this year after several years of repairs. A half-cent sales tax paid for that work and staffing.

Rynard, of Kansas City Parks and Recreation, says it was important to reopen a convenient and community-centered pool at the site.

“I think people always want an affordable aquatics option and feel like the city pool is a good place to swim and socialize,” says Rynard.

The small pool is basic, but it does offer zero-depth entry and lap lanes. It is connected to Line Creek Community Center, where the ice arena can be another place to cool off. The $3 entrance fee only provides access to the pool.

Riverside municipal pool

Affordability is the No. 1 feature of the Riverside municipal pool. Kids younger than 12 can swim for just $1, and everyone else gets in for $3.

The pool has zero-depth entry and gets as deep as about four feet. The littlest swimmers and their parents have a shaded area. There’s a diving board for older swimmers.

Head lifeguard Chase Prince says the pool tends to be popular with families that have young children.

“We have a very nice zero-entry where they can go with their kids,” says Prince.

The most unusual program at the Riverside municipal pool is free swim lessons for Riverside residents. The lessons, run by the YMCA, start June 11 and continue throughout the summer. Information on the lessons can be picked up either at the Riverside Community Center or the Platte County Center South.

Platte City municipal pool

Tradition and convenience is most of the allure at the Platte City municipal pool. City administrator D.J. Gehrt says the pool has changed little since its opening in 1964. Though it probably could attract more people with upgrades, it’s still popular for locals.

The pool, which starts at 3 feet deep rather than with the popular zero-depth entry, has a diving board and lap lanes. There is also a wading pool. Gehrt calls it an “old-style” municipal pool that mainly serves Platte City residents, many of whom live within walking or biking distance.

Although Platte City has grown significantly, and other aquatic offerings like The Springs are nearby, the Platte City municipal pool serves a population that has used the facility for generations.

“The people that use it are very fond of it. I think that we do have a population that would use it if it had more amenities,” says Gehrt.

Gehrt says the city is not trying to compete with other aquatics options in the area, but rather is filling a gap for those not served by what’s available. That means keeping it simple and affordable.

“We try to make sure we are not pricing anyone out,” says Ghert.

Regular admission is $3 for adults, $2.50 for kids and under 4 get in free.

Splash parks

Splash parks offer a free option for people who want just a simple cool-off in the summer sun. There are four in the Northland — two in Liberty, one in Kansas City and one at Zona Rosa.

Most of them, like Golden Oaks Sprayground at 46th Street and North Antioch Road, replaced outdated and expensive wading pools. Rynard, of Kansas City Parks and Recreation, says Golden Oaks Park used to have two pools, but they had to be filled and drained every day.

“That was very expensive to operate and not the most environmentally friendly,” says Rynard.

Residents have expressed a desire for more spray parks in Kansas City at places like Penguin Park, but the resources are not available.

The spray park at Golden Oaks is bare bones — just a concrete pad with a few jets that users can turn on near a large playground. Bringing your own lawn chairs is a good idea, as bench seating and visibility is limited.

Two spray parks in Liberty offer more than the one at Golden Oaks. One is just a few blocks off the Liberty Square at Ruth Moore Park near Grover and Mississippi streets. The other is on Missouri 291 at the more-visible Liberty City Park. Although the parks do not have any fancy features, they have a variety of water jets and are fenced so small children cannot easily run away. They each also have a small covered sitting area.

Liberty parks and recreation director Janet Bartnik says many people don’t know that aside from saving water, spray parks are healthier than wading pools. The water does not just go down the drain, but is part of a treated underground water system.

Bartnik also says offering a free way to get wet helps make sure everyone can stay cool in the summer.

“It’s great not just for physical activity but also for social well-being. Splash parks are fantastic. It’s like a wet playground,” says Bartnik.

One tip for those driving by: Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see the water going. These spray grounds are self-serve and turn on with motion or at the push of a button.

Zona Rosa, at Interstate 29 and Barry Road, has a public fountain that can be used as a spray park. It is in the middle of the Plaza area, and the water usually runs during regular business hours.

To the beach

Another option for those looking for a cheap way to cool off this summer is Smithville Lake. It offers two swim beaches run by the Clay County Parks Department. The Camp Branch Beach is on the east side of the lake. The Little Platte Beach is on the west side in Little Platte Park.

Both beaches are free, open from 8:30 a.m. to sunset until Sept. 15. They have showers, restrooms and changing facilities but no lifeguards.

Want to go?

The Springs Aquatic Center

Where: 9400 N. Congress Ave. in Kansas City, west of Interstate 29 and just north of Zona Rosa

What’s it have? Two large water slides, a large spray and play area, lazy river, vortex pool and diving boards

Cost: $9 for over 4 feet tall, $6 for shorter people

Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Gladstone municipal pool

Where: 7011 N. Holmes, next to the community center at Central Park

What’s it have? Zero-depth entry, spray ground with a 900-gallon dumping bucket, open flume water slide, lap pool, two low dives and one high diving board

Cost: $6 for everyone older than 2 before 6 p.m., $5 later.

Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. Sunday

Liberty Community Center

Where: 1600 S Withers Road

What’s it have? 25-meter outdoor lap pool, toddler pool with zero-depth entry and fountain

Cost: $7.25 for adults over 18, $5.50 for younger

Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, indoor pool 7:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday

Line Creek Pool

Where: 5940 N.E. Waukomis Drive in Frank Vaydik Park

What’s it have? Zero-depth to about 3 feet, lap lane

Cost: $3

Hours: 1 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Riverside municipal pool

Where: 4498 N.W. High Drive

What’s it have? Zero-depth entry, a shade area in the pool, lap lanes and a diving board

Cost: $3 for ages 12 and up, $1 for children 3 to 11, free for younger kids

Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. Sunday

Platte City municipal pool

Where: 405 Fourth St.

What’s it have? Diving board, slide and lap lanes

Cost: $1 for people 55 and older, $3 for 12 to 54 years, $2.50 for 4 to 11 years, free for younger children

Hours: Noon to 7 p.m Monday through Sunday

Splash parks

Ruth Moore Park

Where: 401 N. Morse, Liberty

Cost: Free

Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Liberty City Park

Where: 970 S. Missouri 291

Cost: Free

Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Golden Oaks Spray Ground at Golden Oaks Park

Where: 46th Street and North Antioch Road

Cost: Free

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Zona Rosa

Where: Interstate 29 and Barry Road, Kansas City

Cost: Free

Hours: During business hours

Beaches

Smithville Lake

Where: Camp Branch Beach (east side) in Camp Branch Bauman Park, 17201 Paradesian St., Smithville; and Little Platte Beach (west side) in Little Platte Park southeast of Northeast 180th Street and Missouri F in Smithville

What’s it have? Shower house, restrooms and beach, but no lifeguards

Cost: Free

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to sunset

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