Next summer, there will be no place to swim in Raytown. No public place, at least.
Last month, members of the city’s park board, citing maintenance costs, voted to shut down the Super Splash water park at 5330 Raytown Road.
But that’s not the only Raytown public pool to be closed recently. Last year officials of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City announced plans to shut down its Raytown location at 10301 E. Missouri 350. It closed that April.
Swimming pools represent a quality-of-life issue, said Jim Aziere, boys swimming coach for Raytown and Raytown South high schools, as well as a longtime member of the Raytown Board of Aldermen.
Going from two to no pools available to the public is not a promising trend for the community, he added.
“It has a very crippling effect because when young families see a community deteriorate, they have less of a reason to move here,” Aziere said.
The park board’s action means that Raytown now has joined two other eastern Jackson County communities to face the issue of what to do with aging swimming pools.
Officials in Independence and Sugar Creek also have confronted this problem in years past. Today, Independence has opened a new aquatics center, while Sugar Creek still has no pool.
And in August, Sugar Creek voters soundly rejected a proposed wellness center.
In Raytown, officials maintain the pool’s closure is only the first step in a comprehensive study of the city’s entire park system. That system includes not only several traditional park sites but also the Rice-Tremonti Farm Home and a BMX bike track.
It was time to take a step back and consider Super Splash in context of the entire system, said George Mitchell, Raytown park board chairman.
“The focus right now is on the pool but we have other things that need our attention,” said Mitchell.
It’s possible, in some long-term scenario, that Super Splash could reopen in the future, he added.
Attendance had slightly increased at Super Splash this past summer, with a related uptick in revenues. But for several years, according to Mitchell, the city had subsidized the operation of the water park, addressing serious maintenance issues such as broken water lines.
The facility needs about $450,000 worth of replaced filters, repaired pumps and motors and general maintenance.
“One problem with the pool is that a lot of people don’t see the infrastructure underneath the concrete,” Mitchell said. “There’s a lot of pumps and water lines to look at, and we need to understand what’s good and what’s bad.”
For all the information Raytown has about Super Splash, the city does not have a comparable amount of detail on the needs of other park system facilities, he said. A comprehensive study would supply that.
City officials hope to select a firm to conduct the study by next January, Mitchell said.
“Then we will have a plan for all of our parks, including Super Spash,” Mitchell said. “We will be able to say what our plan is going forward for the next next five, 10 or 15 years. We want to make sure the Raytown parks are beautiful and safe.”
The city has a list of perhaps 14 strategic planning or landscape architecture firms that could be candidates to conduct the study, said Kevin Boji, Raytown parks and recreation director. The process of inviting bids should begin after the Raytown Board of Aldermen approves the city’s parks budget, which is expected on Oct. 7, he said.
The pool first opened in 1963. Raytown acquired the facility in 1988 and changed the name to Super Splash.
Other communities have faced daunting maintenance costs, too.
In 1993, citing almost $500,000 in estimated repair costs, Sugar Creek officials decided to shut down its municipal pool, which had opened in 1955 and attracted swimmers from all over eastern Jackson County.
The pool soon was demolished.
While some dialogue about a new aquatics center continued, it represented a major capital project that the city’s Board of Aldermen did not have an appetite for, said Ron Martinovich, Sugar Creek city administrator.
Today the site of the former pool, on Kentucky Avenue just west of Sterling Avenue, remains a maintained, but empty, grass field.
More recently Sugar Creek officials placed before voters a proposed $1.5 million wellness center that would have been installed in a former post office building that the city acquired in 2012.
Voter approval would have authorized Sugar Creek to issue up to $1.5 million in bonds to execute a plan developed by a design firm. The plans did not include a pool but the city hoped to offer a place for exercise and gatherings.
Passage would have authorized a tax increase of 23 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for 15 years.
The measure required a four-sevenths majority, but only 29 percent of voters approved.
In Independence, voters in 1997 rejected proposed parks and street taxes. Weeks later, citing repair costs it couldn't afford, Independence officials shut down the community’s only public pool.
Independence then became the biggest city in Missouri without an outdoor public pool.
But in 1998, voters approved a scaled-back parks and streets package. And when voters approved new taxes in 2002, the city finally had funding for a new water park. The $7 million Independence Adventure Oasis Water Park opened in 2005.
In its first season, the facility attracted more than 65,000 patrons.
In recent years attendance has remained over 60,000, said Eric Urfer, Independence parks director. The recent openings of larger water parks like Schlitterbahn in western Wyandotte County have had no discernible effect on the operation of the Independence pool, Urfer said.
Following the pool’s recent closing for the season, the city is now planning infrastructure upgades.
“We’re very happy with our water park right now and we are re-investing in the facility,” Urfer said.
In Raytown, Aziere recognizes the importance of the city’s investment in its parks and the need to use all available resources wisely.
“Our chief goal is a good quality of life for the citizens of this city, and parks are part of that,” said Aziere.
Still, he added, no other Raytown park amenity was more used and recognized than Super Splash. It attracted patrons from both inside and outside the city’s boundaries.
The park also provided about $120,000 in salaries every year to its employees, many of whom were young people who worked as lifeguards.
“The park put a lot of income back into the pockets of city residents and I consider that a huge deal,” Aziere said.
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