New aquatic center moves forward

After some setbacks, construction has officially begun on the new Kirksville Aquatic Center. Within the next weeks and into summer, the community will see evidence of the construction near Rotary Park.

Rodney Sadler, Kirksville parks and recreation director, said a lot of the parts of the old pools were falling apart, so a renovation was necessary. He said the outdoor slide was not operational and the mechanical rooms were unsustainable. It was estimated that the cost of repairs would be millions of dollars.

The new aquatic center will be on the same site as the old, but there will be a new outdoor pool and the indoor pool will be heavily renovated, Sadler said. The bath houses, concession stands and behind-the-scenes mechanics will be completely new. The facility will also include new staff offices and a meeting room so that the members of the department can work in one location.

The initial bids from contractors came in over budget, but after revisions to the plans, one of the bids from the second round was taken. The groundbreaking ceremony was scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 2, but was postponed due to inclement weather to Tuesday, Feb. 4.

The project, which will cost around $8 million, is funded by a half-cent parks sales tax which started April 2017.

The Department of Parks and Recreation held community engagement sessions to ask community members what they wanted in the aquatic center. An appointed sub-committee sent out surveys to the general public and garnered upwards of 600 responses. Children were also included in the opinion sessions, Sadler said.

Sadler said there will be many amenities that are tailored to children, such as family slides, shallow lanes in the lap pool for swim lessons and “splash pad” features. These will also be accessible to those in wheelchairs.

Mayor Zac Burden was involved with the People for Better Parks Committee that lobbied the community to support the tax that would go on to fund the aquatic center and other park initiatives.

“We’ve had a long tradition of a pool located right in the heart of town for folks to be able to utilize and I think our new project is really going to be something special,” Burden said.

He assured that the committee was looking to create a project that was built to last and would serve as many members of the community as possible. The addition of indoor shallow water options were among the changes that were made to the plans.

The new aquatic center is scheduled to open Memorial Day 2021.