Photos courtesy of ACI Boland Architects
The Shawnee Mission School Board voted to open a new aquatic center for the district, which will be run by Johnson County Parks and Recreation. The City of Lenexa donated land at 87th and Penrose Lane, just at the edge of the district boundary ,for the aquatic center. Construction is set to begin in spring of 2017, and the pool is scheduled to open in fall of 2018.
The aquatic center will cost 20 million dollars but will not increase taxes, according to Superintendent Jim Hinson. To pay for the pool, the district is selling bonds. This idea was proposed and passed last January, and will raise 230 million dollars to pay for the pool and other district projects.
In years past, Shawnee Mission has not been able to host large swim meets, including district invitationals and league meets, due to lack of pool space. For years, Shawnee Mission has had to rent pool space from Olathe Schools or Lawrence Free State, forcing athletes to drive far away. The Kansas City metro area also has no competitive swimming pools available for teams such as the Kansas City Blazers and Kansas City Swim Academy. The closest pools are located in Topeka, Columbia and Gladstone.
“I’m excited for the new pool,” said Varsity swimmer Trinity Legill. “I’m excited that I won’t have to drive super far away to attend a swim meet and that my parents will have a comfortable place to watch, instead of the humid, cramped East pool.”
ACI Boland Architects will be designing the natatorium. The plans feature a 50 meter racing pool, a diving well and seating for 1,500 people. The aquatic center will also provide a place for Shawnee Mission high school teams to practice, in addition each school’s pool. Each school will have a turn using the aquatic center and hosting meets there.
Over time, the district has received complaints from students and parents about lack of pool space. A committee, comprised of district advisors, which meets and gives the district feedback, finally decided to push for the new pool.
Originally, it was proposed that the natatorium would be built at Shawnee Mission South, on the current Environmental Lab property. However, community members strongly opposed this proposal, arguing to keep the Shawnee Mission South Environmental Lab running, as it is used for classes such as Environmental Education and elementary field trips. Protesters didn’t want to lose that area and also didn’t want to attract high traffic to the South area.
According to Bob Robinson, Shawnee Mission’s Executive Director of Facilities, this land would be a tight fit for the building and provide limited parking for athletes as well as spectators.
“This pool will be great for the district,” District Administrator Leigh Anne Neal said. “Now we will be able to host larger swim meets, provide the community with a pool and, hopefully, give free swim lessons to elementary students.”
While the logistics of swim lessons have not been finished, it is one of the many things the district hopes to implement in the new pool.