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JoCo aquatic center should have been open by now. Will it be done by first big event?

Take a sneak peek at Shawnee Mission school district’s new $28 million aquatic center

The new $28 million, 55,000 square-foot aquatic center being built for the Shawnee Mission school district at City Center in Lenexa is scheduled to open in October. The aquatic center will feature a 50-meter competition pool and a 25-yard pool.
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The new $28 million, 55,000 square-foot aquatic center being built for the Shawnee Mission school district at City Center in Lenexa is scheduled to open in October. The aquatic center will feature a 50-meter competition pool and a 25-yard pool.

A harsh winter and rainy spring delayed construction of Johnson County’s new $28 million aquatic center beyond the expected midyear completion date.

But developers promise the Olympic-sized pool will be ready for swim teams and residents to jump into this fall — just in time to host its first big event.

The center is the latest addition to Lenexa’s booming City Center, which serves as the city’s new downtown after emerging from farmland a few years ago. The city donated the land for the 55,000-square-foot aquatic center, which sits across 87th Street from the 2-year-old Lenexa Recreation Center.

The project is a partnership between the Shawnee Mission school district, which will use the pools for classes and tournaments, and the Johnson County Park & Recreation District, which will manage the center and offer open hours for the public.

While crews have yet to fill the pools with the necessary 1 million gallons of water, Duane Cash, the project manager for ACI Boland Architects, said construction has reached the final stretch.

From the outside, staring at the center is like watching rippling water, Cash said. Blue, glimmering tiles decorate the building, topped with a swooping, curved roof.

“We wanted to bring some visual interest to the building,” he said. “But we also wanted to design something that would fit into the fabric of the other development here.”

On a recent day, work crews were laying tile, applying sealant and checking for any leaks in the empty Olympic-size pool. Cash expects work to be completed in late October, in time for the school district’s first swim meet in November.

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The outside of the aquatic center in Lenexa is meant to look like rippling water, with blue tiles and a wavy roof. Tammy Ljungblad tljungblad@kcstar.com

A 20-year-old vision

Todd Pelham, deputy city manager, said the aquatic center is one part of a growing gathering space in the new heart of the Kansas City suburb.

Across the street, the recreation center is bustling with kids celebrating birthdays or going to summer camp. Families shop for produce at the farmers market nearby.

The market and the new City Hall opened in 2017, and a $21 million library branch followed earlier this summer. Two hotels, a parking garage and thousands of apartments and condos have filled in the area. And more apartments, offices and restaurants have been approved or will open later this year.

“The public’s response has been super positive, and so far the visitor numbers are great,” Pelham said. “Once you experience something like this in a suburban atmosphere, you don’t want to leave. We have all of the things you need in one spot.”

The idea for Lenexa’s City Center came from a citizen input session in 1997, which resulted in a plan to move the city’s downtown from the historic Old Town Lenexa, near Sante Fe Trail Drive and Pflumm Road. More than two decades later, millions of public and private dollars have been poured into the new hub — placing Lenexa as one of the fastest growing cities in Johnson County, as well as the state of Kansas.

While city leaders say development has been moving along as planned, one project hit a snag earlier this summer. Lenexa dissolved a tax increment financing agreement with Renner Housing LLC after the company couldn’t finance the purchase of property off of Renner Boulevard and West 87th Street Parkway to build a mixed-use development.

Plans included more than 230 residential units, plus commercial and restaurants.

“The project plan still exists,” said Sean McLaughlin, assistant city attorney. “So in the future, potentially a private developer could move in and build that same project. That would be subject to our approval with that developer.”

Despite the hiccup, Pelham said other projects are moving along as planned, and developers are working to lease vacant space to retailers and restaurants.

The Lenexa City Center at 87th Street Parkway and Renner Boulevard has been open a year, and it's booming.

Other key projects

The District, a mixed-use building with 175 apartments, plus offices and retail, opened earlier this summer. It’s across the street from the new library and public market. Other phases of the project are still to come, including more apartments and shops.

AdventHealth is set to build a 200-bed hospital and wellness campus in Lenexa, just west of Interstate 435. After neighbors complained, developers in June agreed to lower the hospital’s height from eight to five stories.

Kiewit engineering is renovating two former Perceptive Software buildings at 89th and Renner for its new headquarters. It’s adding another $50 million building and garage, completing a campus for more than 1,200 engineers and other employees by the end of the year.

The Yard, a $15 million project at 87th and Renner, is already expanding while still in early stages. It is expected to include offices, bars, restaurants and pickleball courts. Developers have added an additional $960,000worth of work their plans. The project should be completed in 2021.

Oddo Development has completed more than 320 apartments as the first phase of a project called Sonoma Hill. The Sonoma Plaza retail center, southeast of 87th Street and I-435, will include: a McKeever’s grocery, Starbucks, Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A, Red Door Grill and more.

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Works are laying tile and spreading sealant on the Olympic-size pool at the aquatic center. They hope to fill it with water soon. Tammy Ljungblad tljungblad@kcstar.com

An aquatic center for everyone

At the aquatic center, large windows bring natural light inside,while also allowing passersby — and families floating down the lazy river at the recreation center across the street — the opportunity to peek inside.

The aquatic center includes a 50-meter competition pool — which can be configured for large tournaments or small classes — and a diving well.

A 25-yard pool is designed for training and non-competitive swimming. Its movable floor can be raised and lowered for a water level of zero to seven feet, depending on who is using it.

The center features seating for up to 1,500 people, locker rooms, a concession stand and training facilities. To the west, a two-story, 200-space parking garage also is under construction. A city project, the parking garage will be open to everyone who visits City Center.

“As an architect, my goal is creating an environment that would excite kids to be involved in something like swimming and diving,” Cash said. “The school district wanted everyone in their district to learn how to swim. So they’ll bring kids here to learn, and we hope to give them that light bulb to inspire them to feel passionate about it.”

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Sarah Ritter covers Johnson County for The Kansas City Star. Formerly a reporter for the Quad-City Times, Sarah is a graduate of Augustana College.
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