Proposed plan for Outdoor Aquatic Center renovation includes lazy river, new splash pad

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

The Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center, 727 Kentucky St., is pictured on Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

The major renovation proposed for the Outdoor Aquatic Center at 727 Kentucky St. gives the space a major facelift by gutting lots of the current pool area and replacing it with a lazy river, splash pad and shallow pool.

The aquatic center was last renovated nearly 30 years ago, in 1995. The city allocated $6.1 million in its 2024-2028 Capital Improvements Program for design and construction of the new renovation. Jeff Bartley, an engineer with Waters Edge Aquatic Design who gave a presentation to the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board Monday night, said his team did some core sampling earlier on and found that parts of the pool had “pervasive cracking.”

The wading pool area and recreational pool area had been the most in need of an upgrade — Bartley said the wading pool “beach” section is currently “sinking” — which explains why those new implements will take that space. The bathhouse will also be renovated, with a focus on upgrading the drainage of the space and increasing privacy features.

Along with the new planned features, the design would keep in place the deep dive pool, a 25-meter section of the lap pool and the water slide and plunge pool on the complex’s west side, according to Bartley.

Additionally, increased shade was one of the top requests from the public, so Bartley said the design features more shaded areas, including “cabana areas” that could be reserved by the public.

The addition of a splash pad is something that was very popular in public feedback as well, and board members noted that they are cheaper options for the city because they don’t need to be as staffed and could potentially be open for a longer duration of the year and longer time of day.

Multiple board members asked whether there would be a separate way to access the splash pad during times when the pool wasn’t open to try and limit confusion of the hours. Bartley and other Parks staff said there was not a plan in place on how to manage that. Additionally, due to input from the City Commission, it’s possible a splash pad could be opened in a different place and more space could be dedicated to other features since the design is not finalized.

There is currently a public survey online that will be open through Wednesday, July 10.

After that, the finalized design is expected to be put to vote by the City Commission during its Aug. 13 meeting.

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