The Florence City Council voted Tuesday night to keep the Florence Aquatic Center closed — and said it had plans to build a four-acre park and event space on the site.
Mayor Diane Whalen said the park has cost the city $3 million and has never broken even.
“We’ll keep the building,” Whalen said. “Renovate the restrooms. Make good use of what we do have here.. . As much as we hate to say demolition, demolition could start this fall just to be open next year.”
She would like to explore more opportunities. Perhaps the facility could become a playground or splash park or a stage for live performances.
The water park is open only ten weeks a year while the new park would be open daily. It would include water features as well as indoor space for meeting and large events.
Florence resident Jenna Kemper came to the meeting with a petition and several thousand signatures. She feels the council is making a mistake. She has asked the council to collaborate with her and others to brainstorm “how we can make this asset useful.”
“In Boone County there is not a single pool for the high school teams to practice or host meets. Each team has to pay either the YMCA or Silverlake to rent space and getting time slots for practices is very challenging.”
Swimming is a life-long skill, she said.
“They built this for a reason,” she said. “They built this because the community wanted this and needed it in the area. It’s just been mismanaged…The city hasn’t run this like a business would run it. They’ve run it like a government would run it. They’ve allocated monies to spend on the pool, but not managed the revenue side of the business.”