GARDEN CITY — Garden City commissioners heard an update on the facility set to replace the Big Pool this week, reviewing the problems with the current pool, what attractions the community has shown interest in and what is coming next.
Commissioners and city staff sat in on a meeting Tuesday morning with representatives from facility designers, including Terry Berkbuegler and Hank Moyers of Confluence, Doug Whiteaker of Water Technology Inc., Jeff King of recreation consulting firm Ballard King & Associates, and Dave Hammel of architecture firm Barker Rinker Seacat.
Berkbuegler said the preliminary design process will continue through October, with Confluence taking a month to develop design concepts based on Tuesday’s discussion. In November, the company will seek community input on certain designs and present their findings to the commission. Throughout the process, Confluence and its partner companies will continue to conduct a feasibility study and an operations study for the project.
In November, the commission may set a firm budget for the project, which right now is undetermined due to a list of unknown factors regarding the new facility, like size, admission prices, staffing expenses, concessions and market feasibility, assistant city manager Jennifer Cunningham said.
The designers will then generate cost estimates for some of the top designs and present a master plan and design recommendations to the commission before the end of the year, Berkbuegler said.
After the Big Pool closes in August 2020, as long as all decisions are made ahead of time, construction on the new facility should be ready to open before the summer of 2021, Berkbuegler said.
The Big Pool today
Whiteaker reviewed the history of the Big Pool, tracing its development, updates and community impact from its opening in 1922 to today. The facility was uniquely iconic, he said, memorialized in the Finney County Historical Museum and Finney County Public Library. But the space, at 97 years old, is nearing the end of its structural life, he said.
The pool’s newer splash pad is in good shape, but the facility has some older mechanical pieces, including piping, pumps and gutter systems, and its size makes it difficult to clean and distribute sanitizing chemicals, such as chlorine.
The bathhouse is structurally sound but many of the interior aspects are antiquated or inadequate, Hammel said.
All the issues make for a facility that is expensive to operate, Whiteaker said. The expansive pool, with wide stretches of open water and dark color that obscures the bottom of the pool, is difficult to lifeguard, meaning a larger staff is required.
Staffing costs are significant, but so are chemical costs, he said. The pool loses about 16.8 million gallons a season in leaks and runoff, meaning the city not only has to refill the pool but retreat it. Because of that, the Big Pool was using more chlorine in a day than many pools use in over a week, Whiteaker said.
Redoing the pool as it is is possible, Whiteaker said, but he would not recommend it.
At the end of the day, it would cost about $7.3 million for “a brand new 1950s pool,” Whiteaker said, or to renovate the current pool, fixing the large leaks.