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Wichita wants public ideas on swimming pools via online survey

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, at 9:03 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, at 9:10 a.m.

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To participate in the city’s online survey on its swimming pools, go to www.wichita.gov/CityOffices/Park/ and click on the survey link on the front page.

Pool attendance in 2012

College Hill 17,224

Harvest 16,321

Aley 10,486

Orchard 8,729

Linwood 8,291

Minisa 6,749

Boston 5,991

Evergreen 3,841

McAdams 3,645

Note: In 2011, Country Acres had an attendance of 4,781 and Edgemoor about 10,000. Both pools were closed for repairs in 2012 and are expected to remain closed in 2013.

Source: City of Wichita

The weather is a little frosty to be thinking about swimming pools, but the city of Wichita wants you to consider the topic.

To help shape the future of the 11 city-owned pools — most of which were built decades ago — the Park and Recreation Department has developed an online survey that asks people what they want and what are they willing to do to get there.

Does your neighborhood pool give you what you want? Do you want more amenities, such as a splash pad or zero-depth entry? Would you be willing to pay higher user fees?

What funding would you support for upgrades? Half-cent sales tax? Grants? Private donations?

“This may set the standard for the next 10 to 15 years, depending on what we come up with,” said Doug Kupper, the department’s director. “It’s a starting point.”

The survey will be followed by public input at meetings, including district advisory boards, Kupper said. In the past, the city has called on the public to help develop plans for recreation centers and golf courses. A committee has been formed to sort through specifics.

Money is the bottom line. The city spends about $400,000 annually to operate its pools, Kupper said. Attendance fees don’t begin to cover the cost, he added.

Country Acres and Edgemoor, two of the city’s older pools, were closed last year because of structural and plumbing problems. They won’t be open in 2013 for the same reasons, Kupper said. They both also need to be brought into compliance with federal law that requires accessibility for the disabled.

It would take about $280,000 to cover all that for Edgemoor and $75,000 to $100,000 for Country Acres, Kupper said. Right now, there’s no money for either pool in the city’s long-range budget.

“They need such expensive repairs,” Kupper said. “The other side of it is if the community doesn’t think we should have 11 pools, then what pools should we not open or fix? What pools shouldn’t we fix? Which ones should we fix?”

Wichita’s landscape for pools looks much different than in the 1950s and early 1960s when many of the city’s pools were built.

More homes now have pools. Newer subdivisions have homeowner associations that provide pools. The YMCA has pools at all six branches in the city; three also have outdoor water parks.

How some of those overlap with areas served by the city’s pools has to be considered, he added. For example, the YMCA’s west and northwest branches have pools within five miles of Country Acres.

“There is a lot more access to pools for the general public,” Kupper said. “That’s why we’re trying to get out to the masses to see what we should be offering.”

Attendance at the nine pools for the 2012 season was 81,277. College Hill and Harvest accounted for more than 40 percent of that total with College Hill at 17,224 and Harvest at 16,321.

At the bottom were Evergreen and McAdams with less than 4,000. Country Acres drew about 4,800 in 2011 and Edgemoor had about 10,000 that year.

Hours of operation have long been an issue.

“Right now, many of our pools are 1 to 5 p.m.,” Kupper said. “That doesn’t give people time to come home and cool off before supper.”

College Hill residents agreed. That’s why they negotiated a deal with the city a few years ago to keep its pool open until 7 p.m.

They raise $1,800 each year through cookouts, which they contribute to the city to pay for those expanded hours, said Tim Goodpasture, who has been active on east Wichita neighborhood’s pool committee.

The College Hill neighborhood has long rallied around its pool. Residents spent years planning and then dipped into their own pockets to replace the leaky, 60-year-old municipal pool in 2000 after the city threatened to close it.

The residents contributed $500,000 with the bulk of it coming after they agreed to tax themselves through a special assessment. The city kicked in another $250,000 for the pool, which has a zero-depth entry and an active swim team.

“That pool is important to our neighborhood,” Goodpasture said. “There are people that we know only because of the pool that we call our ‘pool family.’ It’s like one big family.”

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or at rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com.

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