Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Aquatics Task Force: Water park lowballed if it intends to meet needs of community

  • The generational decisions that will be made regarding the water park requires proper funding, members of the Aquatics Task Force residents group told the special sales tax project advisory board.
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  • Members of the Aquatics Task Force residents' group and other swimming pool stakeholders are concerned that by conceding to a 25-meter "short course" pool in the final design, the utility of the park to residents will be diminished.
    The Community Facilities Advisory Board, the "Why Not Dodge?" special sales tax advisory group, and an engineer from the city's design firm met with members of the task force, swim team advocates and other residents during a public meeting, Friday.
    The current municipal pool is in dire shape. The pool that is eventually attached to the water park project will be its replacement.
    Now, the municipal pool is falling short in serving the needs of the population, Debbie Snapp of the task force said.
    "There's so much demand for that now. There's more kids that want swimming lessons than there are swimming lessons. ... We need to be expanding that instead of going to where we're at now," she said. There is only so much space to hold classes and time in the day. The ability to host competition swim meets will be a bonus.
    Faced with a $10 million budget, Tom Stanley of the advisory board asked what features in the park would be the first on the chopping block to accommodate a larger pool. In a sense, should the colorful and fun, visitor-drawing elements be cut to meet the needs of a standard city pool?
    "I think what we're saying is it needs to be both," Debbie Snapp of the Aquatics Task Force said.
    The $10 million budget, about $700,000 per year in bond payments, essentially taps the special sales tax revenue with all other expenditures left alone, according to the city.
    The joint Dodge City and Ford County commissions, and the advisory board, could adjust priorities in that spending to accommodate the roughly $120,000 per year that would be needed to build the park with the larger pool, Snapp said.
    "We've been saying it needs to be a $10 million to $12 million project, not a $10 million project," she said.
    Switching to a 50-meter pool in the preliminary design would cost between $1.5 million and $1.8 million, Dave Schwartz of the Water's Edge design firm said. Cutting a whole slew of water slides and features, including the half-million dollar signature attraction "Boomerango" slide, wouldn't be able to meet that cost gap. The only attraction currently slated for the park that would get close is the lazy river, a major feature.
    Snapp said it would be "heartbreaking" to remove some of the water park features — slides and play areas — at the cost of a larger pool. And vice versa.
    Expanding the pool in the future is an option and the site is being designed to accommodate making the park larger as funds become available. An uptick in the city's retail sales, for example, would provide a new boost to the special sales tax fund. A promise of a 50-meter pool in the future was met with some skepticism by the group — it's taken 14 years for the water park to make its way this far into the process.
    Page 2 of 2 - The park should serve the goal of attracting visitors to Dodge City, Snapp said, but it also has a responsibility to residents.
    Today, representatives from the city will meet with residents to get their opinions on what features should be included in the water park. This will likely be the last major outreach by the advisory board, as the city hopes to see the park open in May 2015, an ambitious construction goal.
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