FLORENCE, Ky. (WKRC) –The Florence Aquatic Center is the lone remaining city-run swimming pool in Northern Kentucky.
The COVID pandemic forced it to shut down last summer, and the city also closed it this summer.
Mayor Diane Whalen says it probably won’t reopen at all in its current format. The budget under review by the Florence City Council doesn’t include any funds for the facility.
Whalen said that came after deliberations with council over the budget, with several council members asking what it would take to both reopen it next year, close it, or use the area for something else.
“After seeing the amount of lost revenue, the amount of supplemental tax dollars that go into this every year, they decided they wanted to explore their options,” Whalen said of the council. “They want to find a way to make use of that public property for 10 to 12 months instead of 10 weeks.”
Whalen says the aquatic center lost about $3.2 million dollars in operating costs between 2005 and 2019. It lost on average about $300,000 annually the last three years it was open, with operating costs averaging about $7,500 a day.
But resident Jenna Kemper says the pool should be about more than money. She’s been going since 2006 and is a big part of the Hammerhead Swim Team that also used it. (The city paid for the team’s coaches and for the use of the YMCA in Burlington for this season).
Kemper started an online petition that now has more than 6,000 signatures, and she worries about the quality of life if the city continually cuts recreation.
“I don’t understand why they wouldn’t want to provide a livability,” Kemper said. “20 years ago, Florence brought in these humongous attractions that provide so much for the whole city.”
Whalen says she takes responsibility for not pushing the fact that there will be something possibly better in the area when the changes are made.
Ideas for the area include a year-round playground with a smaller splash park and a live stage amphitheater for concerts
“We know we want to explore providing recreation there in a different form, in a form that’s open all year long, and a form that’s free to come into,” Whalen said.
Whalen says there will be a survey to get public input on what to do with the aquatic center coming this summer.