Photo Courtesy of Shawnee Mission School District
SMSD broke ground on Oct. 26 to begin building the new 27.8 million dollar Aquatic Center in a partnership with the city of Lenexa. The center will be located at 87th St. and 1-435 in Lenexa. Construction will start this winter or early spring, according to Superintendent Kenny Southwick, and should be open to the public by the summer of 2019.
The idea for the project came about in 2012, but wasn’t voted on until 2015 as part of a 223 million dollar bond. Along with the Aquatic Center, the money was also assigned to the reconstruction of several elementary schools, including Briarwood and Trailwood.
The project was supposed to be part of the South Stadium renovation, but this changed after Lenexa gave SMSD a million dollar plot of land that will be part of a the Lenexa City Center, a massive retail and restaurant construction project completed by the city.
“The concept behind the partnership is that we both serve the same people,” Southwick said. “If we can share the tax dollars and leverage those together then it makes sense to work together [with Lenexa].”
Both SMSD and Lenexa hope that the facility will bring in people for large swim meets in the local area and region, and possibly the state high school swim meets. The new pool even has the potential hold Olympic qualifying meets, according to Dunlin.
This partnership was created through the Lenexa system of land banking that started 30 years ago, when the city acquired large amounts of farmland. They have used this land for the new Lenexa City Center, an area for “people to gather and get all of the services they need,” according to Assistant to the City Administrator for Lenexa, Danielle Dulin.
The Aquatic Center will consist of an Olympic sized 50 meter pool with the potential to contain 23 practice lanes going across the 25 meter width. The facility will be a “state of the art pool” according to both Dunlin and Southwick. It is estimated to hold around 1,500 people and could be used practice of all five high school swim teams at the same time.
“We are very excited for the new district pool, especially when it comes to hosting meets,” Assistant Boys’ Swim Coach Colby Dischinger said. “With the amount of work our boys put into practice, they should be able to showcase their speed in high quality pool.”
The boys will mainly train at the East pool during the week, but will use the district facility when time allows, according to Dischinger. The pool will not only be used for high school practices, but also swim lessons as part of the elementary school curriculum.
“We know among young kids, drowning is the second leading cause of death,” Southwick said. “The vision was that we wanted to create a space that all of our kids across the Shawnee Mission School District can learn how to swim.”
SMSD wanted to take a step to prevent drowning according to Southwick due to one in five people who die of drowning are under 14 years old according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I think adding swim lessons to the elementary P.E. curriculum is a great idea,” Briarwood P.E Teacher Jenea Ledou said. “It is a great way to make water safety and basic swimming available to all district students. Swimming is also a lifelong fitness activity that is so healthy for your body.”
Though the new Aquatic facility is being built primarily for use by Shawnee Missions schools, the partnership between the city of Lenexa and SMSD will benefit both parties by bringing in people to this massive facility to rent.
“We use public dollars and we serve the taxpayers,” Dunlin said. “Having the aquatic center there benefits us by bringing in people to our services and gives them a space to have the Aquatic Center.”
Lenexa wanted to be intentional about what they were doing with the land, and thought SMSD’s facility would be able to bring in revenue by attracting people for major swim meets in the region according to Southwick and Dunlin.
SMSD will be covering the entirety of the cost of the Aquatic Center and will splitting the cost of a 4.4 million dollar parking garage, which will house up to 200 cars. The parking garage will be public parking for the both the Aquatic Center and the developments done by the city of Lenexa.
SMSD has another partnership with Johnson County Parks and Recreation who will be in charge of running the facility for SMSD. However, SMSD will have priority when it comes to scheduling practices and meets according the Southwick. When the district is not using the pool, the space will be run and rented out by Johnson County Parks and Recreation to local swim teams as a source of revenue for the district.