Debate on keeping Big Pool sparks conflict

Jordan Koerperich 

Sugar Beet staff reporter

The future of one of Garden City’s most famous historical landmarks is uncertain. When the ‘Big Pool’ first opened on July 18, 1922 a band played as hundreds of people hit the water to inaugurate Garden City’s first summer swim season. And now after nearly 100 years of serving the area of southwest Kansas, Garden City Commission has decided to gather community input on the pool. This long-term community input process is going to be used to feedback on the future of this historic pool. The pool will be open this 2019 season.

“I would like to see the big pool stay just the way it is,” Ellie Kennedy, head lifeguard said. “We have a good facility that fits to the needs of our community. I think downsizing it or closing it down would take away from the history and value it presents. We have great hours that come along with a good price and it allows people to come when it fits their schedule and budget. There are extra events that go on to get involvement that we might not always see. I have so many memories because I’ve been there for eight years but I think just the atmosphere of the pool in general is amazing. I  went to the pool as a child all the time and now I’m working there. It’s always fun building relationships with the lifeguards and making new memories each summer.”

Assistant City Manager Jennifer Cunningham is now reaching out to schools and residents of Garden city and the surrounding counties through face-to-face discussion sessions along with paper and electronic surveys. On March 19, once all community feedback is gathered, she will present a written report to the City Commission. The final decision on the future of The Big Pool will be made on April 2. A few of the potential options being discussed are smaller community pools, splash parks, or a water park. The location of these are also being discussed – the main options being Finnup, Scout, Rotary, Deane Wiley, Southeast Community, Harold Long or Stevens’ Parks.

“I don’t necessarily have an opinion as to what I want to see the community do,” Cunningham said. “Most important to me is that every single student in Garden City fills out the survey. From here we have to make sure that The City Commission votes and makes a formal decision on what kind of project they want based on what the community says. From there, once a project is decided upon we have to actually go out and design and find out how much it will cost to build.”

Being a public pool and owned by the City of Garden City, The Big Pool was not originally intended to bring in revenue. From the time it opened until 2003, a span of 81 years, admission to the pool was free to the public.

“It’s not necessarily about it losing money,” Cunningham said. “It’s about the fact that of that money we’re losing, $1,000 a day of that is water loss. So you couple that with it being expensive and no one is using it. We are paying a huge amount of money for a service that no one is using.”

Cunningham’s reports showed the pool cost about $3,337 a day in utilities over a span of 139 days, $1,019 of which paid for 200,000 gallons of water loss due to leaks underneath the concrete structure. In 2018 the pool accumulated over $780,000 in expenses and brought in about $91,000 in revenue.

“I would like to see the Big Pool stay here,” Lane Durst, junior, said. “It is a part of the city’s history and it gives high school kids jobs while parents take their kids there to relax and have fun. My favorite memory from when I was a kid was going to the Big Pool with my cousins and spending all day there, just cooling off.”

For those interested in taking the survey, it may be completed at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BigPool7-12.

Jordan Koerperich is a trade and health academy junior you can contact him at koerperichj@student.gckschools.com.

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