WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A group of people are holding a flash mob on Saturday morning in an effort to save Wichita’s McAdams Pool.
The diving boards are gone, the lifeguard chairs are empty and the gates are locked shut. The only thing left at McAdams Pool is a deep end collecting leaves, a tipped over group of lockers and a few old pool flyers.
“It’s unfair. It’s not balanced,” said pool activist and retired teacher Vernette Chance.
“I was devastated,” said activist Debra J. Washington.
Vernette Chance and Debra J. Washington are spear heading Saturday’s flash mob. On Friday, they were at the pool surveying the facility and reflecting on the many years it served as a safe, community place for Wichita’s youth.
“It opened in 1970. He designed it for the kids in this neighborhood because when he was a teenager and younger, he could not swim in any of the pools because of segregation. There was no place a black kid could swim,” said Chance. “This is supposed to be for these kids here.”
“For some of our kids that means they may not be able to go to the pool,” said Youth Horizons Mentoring Coach Tim Rorabaugh.
The city announced in February it was closing McAdams pool in 2017 per the city’s Aquatics Master Plan. The plan will phase out six of the city’s nine operating public pools and turn them into splash pads by 2023.
“The pools were built 50, 60-years ago and we are having a hard time keeping them open,” said Wichita Director of Public Works Troy Houtman.
Houtman also said McAdams pool is one of the least used pools in the city. He added the city is offering kids in the McAdams neighborhood vouchers and transportation to a local YMCA to use its aquatic facility until the McAdams splash pad is constructed.
Chance and Washington, however, said that’s not enough. The only solution they see is to keep McAdams open as a functioning community pool.
“We are doing this to save a program and a space for kids,” Chance said.
“If we as citizens of Wichita say we care about our community, then we need to find resources to keep our community a community,” Washington said.
Houtman said he understands the community’s concerns, but told KSN the effort to save McAdams may be too late.
“For this year, the budget is already set. We have already set our programming. We have already published all of the hours, so unfortunately there’s not an opportunity this year to reopen that pool, but we have had some conversations outside the aquatics master plan with the community and we will continue to have those discussions,” Houtman said.
Saturday’s flash mob begins at 8 a.m. on 1329 E. 16th St. N.