© 2023 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

After two-year hiatus, the only public pool in Kansas City, Kansas, reopens

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
A lifeguard watches over Parkwood Pool in Kansas City, Kansas. The pool re-opened Saturday, May 28, after being closed for two years.

The Unified Government signed a one-year contract with a company to manage Parkwood Pool, which had closed because of the coronavirus and a lifeguard shortage.

Despite a slightly chilly start to the day, with temperatures in the low 70s, residents of northeast Kansas City, Kansas, flocked to Parkwood Pool for its opening day Saturday. The pool, which is the only public pool in Kansas City, Kansas, was closed in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus and a lifeguard shortage.

Kenneth Williams brought his two granddaughters to the grand re-opening Saturday. He said he was born and raised in Wyandotte County and he has fond memories of swimming at Parkwood Pool. Williams said the pool is good for the community and was sorely missed during its hiatus.

“With the pandemic and a bunch of things going on, it’s time to have the kids some place to go. So I am truly ecstatic and excited about it,” he said.

Williams plans to bring his grandkids to the pool once or twice a week.

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
Kenneth Williams and his granddaughters, Kaylee and Kholee, enjoy opening day at Parkwood Pool. Williams said he has fond memories of swimming at the pool as a kid, and he wants his grandchildren to have good memories of Parkwood, too.

Kansas state Sen. David Haley was also excited for the pool’s re-opening. He lives close enough to Parkwood that he walked there Saturday. Haley said he remembers when the pool was first built more than 50 years ago. He used to walk by it often, and when he was a kid he fell into the hole that was being dug for the pool.

“I can say I was one of the first ones in this hole that is now a pool. For real, I couldn’t get out,” Haley said, laughing. “I go way back with the Parkwood Pool.”

Haley said he was glad young people in his community will have something to do in the summer.

“Especially to people who don’t have access to private pools, it’s rewarding to see that Mayor [Tyrone] Garner and the Unified Government have delivered after the hiatus to have it open and have this beautiful recreational, athletic and, frankly, social swimming pool available to all of Kansas City,” he said.

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
Kansas state Sen. David Haley lives within walking distance of Parkwood Pool. He said he was really excited for it to open after a two-year hiatus.

Pauline Beggs, who lives down the street from Parkwood, said she will be a frequent user of the pool this summer. She has five grandchildren she babysits during the day; before she knew Parkwood was reopening, she worried about where to take them.

“You know, to go to a pool we have to go way out on the other side or go to Overland Park or go to Missouri and this is so good for the kids,” said Beggs.

To staff Parkwood, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, signed a one-year contract with Midwest Pool Management to staff and manage the pool. Brandon Stortz, a Midwest Pool Management district manager, said lifeguards from other facilities were reassigned to staff Parkwood.

“It’s been a challenge, getting lifeguards, as it is everywhere. We’ve been very fortunate to get our pools staffed,” he said.

Stortz said Midwest Pool Management offers a lifeguard certification course which is free for people who work at pools in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, but $180 for people lifeguarding in other municipalities. Stortz said the company is continuing to hire and train prospective lifeguards.

“We took on this contract a short time ago and so because we operate so many other facilities, we were able to get staff from other facilities. That way we can keep Parkwood up and going, now and for the rest of the summer,” he said.

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
Kenny Jones and his son, Little Kenny, at Parkwood Pool. Jones said he is thankful Parkwood reopened because it is the only place for him and his son to swim in Kansas City, Kansas.

While Saturday’s reopening was cause for celebration, residents wish swimmers had more options. Kansas City, Kansas, has more than 150,000 residents, and Parkwood Pool is small. Beggs said she wants to see better access to public pools for everyone in the city.

“They’ve got great parks now but I think they could use another pool, because we don’t have them,” she said. “You look from here to the Legends, there’s nothing. They used to have one way out that way but they don’t anymore. So this is something starting, I’m really happy. Hopefully they can do more for us.”

Williams agreed.

“Now, the population is not really just down here in the city; it’s everywhere and so yeah, we need two or three more for sure,” said Williams.

Parkwood’s regular hours will be Tuesday–Saturday 12–6 p.m. and Sunday 2–6 p.m. The pool will be open on Memorial day 12–6 p.m. Admission is $1 per person.

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga is a freelance reporter for KCUR 89.3.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make nonprofit journalism available for everyone.