Groundbreaking held for Garden Rapids

Meghan Flynn
Officials toss shovelfuls of dirt Friday morning during a groundbreaking ceremony outside the bath house at The Big Pool. The groundbreaking was to begin the demolition and construction of the new Garden Rapids at The Big Pool waterpark at the site.

Construction of Garden Rapids at the Big Pool has officially begun.

A groundbreaking was held Friday at the Big Pool site.

Matt Allen, Garden City manager, said it was an exciting day as after saying goodbye to the Big Pool two weeks ago at a farewell celebration, the new project is beginning.

The project has been two years in the making.

Nearly every generation of Garden City residents has changed the geometry or features of the Big Pool, Allen said, but past commissions have been committed to keeping a central aquatics facility at the Big Pool site.

The decision to keep the site is a message that everything that has helped make memories at the pool, including its location in Finnup Park, proximity to the Lee Richardson Zoo, Lightner Baseball Field and Historical Society, will keep being made for generations to come despite the change in dimensions and features of the pool, Allen said.

“So I'm excited for the community, for those of us now and ... especially the little ones yet to arrive,” he said. “They're going to have a good time at this facility.”

Garden City mayor Troy Unruh said the groundbreaking was an important milestone in how those in the city think about water recreation.

The Big Pool was constructed almost 100 years ago, Unruh said. It was hand dug, and the concrete was poured by the residents of the city who wanted to create a place to gather, play and find a way to escape the southwest Kansas heat.

Since then, commissioners have dealt with the Big Pool’s issues, which included loss of water, low utilization and the need of structural repairs, Unruh said. Repairs were made and additions completed and the pool kept running, but ultimately something had to be done to stem the problems.

So, the city commission began a nearly three-year public process to determine what was next for aquatic recreation within the city, and the decision was made to construct a new facility in place of the old one, Unruh said.

“The decision to move forward with the new aquatics facility was not easy, but was necessary and here we are today,” he said. “I want to recognize prior commissions who have had the vision to realize the Big Pool, even though it was at the end of its life, that they were willing to consider new alternatives.”

Unruh is excited for the project as it “continues to move forward and for what the Garden Rapids facility will bring to so many of our community and for those who choose to visit what I believe is the best community in Kansas.”

Even though the facility will change, memories will remain and new ones will be made, Unruh said.

“Places hold memories and I have many at this place. The Big Pool I swam in as a kid no longer exists, but my memories and the people who shared it do,” he said. “We believe bringing families and people together will be enhanced through the design and planning and building of Garden Rapids at the Big Pool.”