KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the last couple of years, empty pools became a common sight for Kansas City, Missouri, families during the summer.
It was a number of issues from staffing, to chlorine shortages and maintenance.
Though the cold weather has arrived, KCMO leaders say now is the time to take action to ensure pools can reopen next summer.
Kansas City Parks and Recreation created an aquatics master plan and wants the public to weigh in.
“When you talk to kids, what’s the one thing they look forward to? Going to the pools, we also know we have an obligation to teach kids how to swim,” said Brad Clay, the deputy director for KCMO Parks and Recreation.
According to Clay, 20 out of 27 of the city's aquatic facilities opened last year.
Now, a company based out of Lenexa has been contracted to assess each facility.
“This pool hasn’t opened in years, so what will it take to get this pool open?” Clay said.
Clay said 20-years-ago, the department had 1,200 employees, and now it's down to 300.
According to Clay, of those 300 employees, only 10 work specifically in facility maintenance. He said the department continues recruiting workers.
Data collection, expenses, water responsibility and things to add or get rid of are among the things that will be assessed.
“When those pools sat for an entire year, we tried to open them up the year after COVID, but nothing worked, everything broke down,” Clay said.
This is something Keeley Spencer saw first-hand in her 2021 summer job.
“I would love to see these pools open back up to serve us as a community. I worked at Swope Park Pool, it was super fun,” Spencer said. “I basically cleaned up there for a few days and then it got closed down.”
Spencer made videos documenting the process.
“I wanted to show my mom the first day as a lifeguard,” she said. “We kept trying to fill up the pool with water and it kept draining out.”
Clay wants feedback on what people want most. Spencer says safety and staff are most important.
“It’s a place where you can see friends, and families — a place to cool down, and it’s a great place for teenagers to make money,” Spencer said.
Through the voter-approved half-cent sales tax, the KCMO Parks and Recreation Department bring in $32 million a year.
But, the department has $190 million in deferred maintenance costs across all their facilities, and fixing these pools is the main priority.
Once the $75,000 assessment is done, the price tag of possible changes comes with it.
The department hopes the study will be completed in late spring 2023, and hopes the public takes a survey weigh in on the issues.