Garden City’s Big Pool will see another season after the city commission on Tuesday voted to keep the pool open for the 2020 season.
That will be the final season for the historic pool before it is reconstructed into another water recreation feature.
The near 100-year-old facility has been seeing issues related to its age over the last few years, resulting in pipes needing replaced, cracks in concrete needing resealed — but most importantly, significant water loss. More than 200,000 gallons of water a day is lost from the pool when filled. In October 2018, city staff was directed to begin researching and gathering information about the Big Pool from the community and surrounding area to determine the the future of the pool.
Commissioner Lindsey Byrnes made a motion in favor of decommissioning the Big Pool following the 2019 season and begin working with Barker Rinker Seacat, Confluence, Water Technology Inc., of Kansas City, Mo — one of the firms that proposed a design of a new water facility — on a new water recreation facility, as what she said appeared to be the recommendation of the public and city staff. City staff created surveys which were posted on various platforms, including social media. Surveys indicated that the Confluence design is what a majority of those participated in the survey liked the best.
The Confluence project would cost about $15 million and includes many features, including a large pool with competition lanes, an inflatable, floating obstacle course and ropeless climbing wall over a pool, a surfing simulator, play structures for young and older children, open lawn and shaded seating areas and a lazy river with attached large waterslides. Cunningham said the firm also would work to preserve the history of the Big Pool and had expressed interest in completing the project of building a new facility by 2022, which would mark 100 years of the Big Pool.
The motion failed, 3-1, after commissioners Shannon Dick, Troy Unruh and Mayor Dan Fankhauser voted against it. Commissioner Roy Cessna was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Unruh said he thinks opening the Big Pool for one more season would give the community a chance to say goodbye to the Big Pool. Dick agreed, noting the the most fiscally responsible thing to do would be to shut the Big Pool down after the 2019 season and not have a 2020 season. Dick also said that he doesn’t think the 2019 season adequately serves the people who may have just heard the pool could potentially close, or those who live in other states, in case they want to visit it one last time.
“I don’t know if we can adequately serve these people with just this season,” Dick said. “At the same time, I do think we will have to go into it saying, ‘If something goes wrong, at any time ... It may be your last time ... We can’t invest more capital into this.' ”
The commission ultimately voted 3-1 to open the Big Pool for the 2020 season and begin working with Confluence on options for a future publicly funded water recreation facility. Dick, Unruh and Fankhauser voted in favor of the motion while Byrnes voted against it.
Commissioners and city staff also discussed that when the pool is to open in the 2020 season and any issues that could potentially arise because of the aging facility, the community should know that it could mean the end of the Big Pool, though nothing pertaining to that was approved and would have to be discussed at a later date.
“There’s very few things we can do as a city commission where somebody 50 years from now is going to look back and say, ‘This is something that actually mattered,’ ” Dick said. “We have very few things that gets a dot on a timeline, and the discussion of the Big Pool is one of those things.”
Before the commission’s approval of keeping the Big Pool open for one more season, several community members spoke of what they would like to see in a new water recreation facility. Bob Lewis, Heather Kneeland, and Manuel Ortiz each spoke about the competitive swimming aspect of the pool. Each said they would like to see the new facility have a competition-sized pool that could be used for various swimming leagues. Lewis said he would like to see the new facility also have spectator seats.
Marla Garcia said she thinks it’s important for the new facility to be affordable to all. Assistant city manager Jennifer Cunningham, who was tasked with gathering information about the pool over the last nine months, said the community indicated that having a water recreation facility that was affordable — $3 or less— was one of the most sought-after aspects of a new facility.