Carol Quackenbush and Pegge Thompson hustle from their cars into the Blue Springs South Aquatic Center, which the two longtime friends call “our home away from home.”
For a brief, stressful period, the friends were concerned their beloved pool might be taken away, as the YMCA of Greater Kansas City sold the Blue Springs Family YMCA building to the Blue Springs School District for $1.5 million in October.
But the new Blue Springs South Aquatic Center has continued to host public hours for lap swimming, water aerobics and swim lessons and is now a hotbed for the Silver Sneaker generation. Hours and program options can be found at funattheblue.com.
“I thought my life was over; I really did,” said Quackenbush, as she removed her winter coat and signed in at the front desk of the aquatic center that has just south of Blue Springs South High School on land owned by the school district since 1999.
But the building needed repairs, the water condition was less than what the school district expected and many seniors, like Quackenbush and Thompson, feared the worst.
“This pool, the warm water in the pool, keeps me going,” said Quackenbush, as Thompson nodded in agreement. “When we heard that the YMCA was going to close, we went all over the place to find a new swimming pool. We ever went to many of the hotels in the area to see if they might have a pool we could use.”
Thompson was quick to add, “Like Carol said, all we could think about was, ‘What are we going to do?’ And, I guess, we were worrying for nothing because this new center is amazing. The water is so much cleaner and warmer, the locker rooms are so clean and nice and the instructors are amazing. We both have spinal issues, and now we both feel like we have our lives back.”
Many classes offered
Instructor Debbie Bailey’s morning class nearly fills the warm-water activity pool.
“I love my ladies, and I am so thrilled we were able to keep the pool open for our senior citizens because they get so much out of this, and so do I, because I just love what I do,” Bailey said. “We work their arms, legs and abdomen and they can work at their own pace. And I have to agree with what they have said, the pool is just great. We love it here.”
So does assistant pool manager Sharese Read.
“I haven’t heard any complaints – just a lot of good comments about the pool and the locker room,” Read said. “You know, the locker room is a big part of this, too, and there have been so many improvements there, too. We’re so thrilled the school district decided to allow our community to still use this pool.”
Blue Springs district activities director Mark Bubalo said the money to buy the facility came from savings on projects in the $99 million bond issue that voters passed in August 2018. He said not other projects were replaced or canceled because of the YMCA purchase.
“We start talking to the YMCA really early last fall because of some problems with the quality of air in the pool area,” Bubalo said. “We tried to work with the YMCA to get those things fixed, and over the course of time, getting the HVA system fixed, we started talking about the purchase of the building. It was just a matter of time for the YMCA and the school district.”
“We, of course, need the pool for our swim classes and swimming teams at South so when talks got serious about the YMCA actually selling the property, we felt like this was an opportune time for the school district to be able to expand the programming for our students, so it has worked out well for both groups.”
The school district knew it had to keep the pool open for the Jaguars swimming teams.
“Those two needs kind of met the last several months,” Bubalo said. “Having the pool gives us some flexibility in scheduling for classes at South.”
Bubalo said the district could expand physical education offerings for students and training for athletes. South has also been using some space for dance team practices, he said, and it’s looking at moving the child-care facility to that building.
“We’re taking a long, hard look at what all we can do there,” Bubalo said.
'It looks brand new'
South’s associate activities director, Jon Grice, is now the site manager at the aquatic center.
“Our district, buildings and grounds guys, along with the staff here at the center have done an amazing job,” Grice said. “The place has been here for a long time, but it looks brand new. I was happy to hear what people from the community have said about the warmer water, how clean the pool and our locker rooms are and the other amenities we hope to add soon.”
“We want people to know, this is no longer a YMCA, but it is going to be an important part of our community.”
“This is really an exciting project for the district, and we’re all pleased that folks in the community can still use our pool, because what it means to them.”
And because of the Blue Springs Parks and Recreation Department, located at the Fieldhouse, 425 N.E. Mock Ave., the land-based exercise options have not been lost because all citizens can participate in a variety of classes and services.
“A lot of folks from the YMCA have come over to use our services,” said Dennis Dovel, the Parks and Recreation Department director. “They can call us here at 816-228-0137 to get a schedule of classes, or they can simply come by and check out our facilities. I have heard that the community is pleased with the South Aquatic Center and between that facility and our field house, we are all doing our best to take care of the needs of everyone in our community.”
The fee at the Field House is $20 per month for individuals and $35 for couples. It offers pickleball, basketball courts and several classes designed for all ages.