Many of us in town based our entire summer social schedule around the public pool in Platte City. I’ll never say the majority of kids did, but a good group for sure. I know that from my first swimming lesson there, when I famously refused to leave the steps, until the early part of high school, I made a lot of memories on that patch of land at the corner of Vine and Fourth streets in the downtown.
The L-shaped pool provided a summer oasis — a place to hang with friends, show off ability to do a fancy flip off the diving board, spend spare change on soda and candy at the concession stand play games that loosely resembled sand volleyball on the court outside the gate and, most importantly, flirt.
I forged more than one immature “dating” relationship at the Platte City pool. A few of you that I “went out with” might be reading these words. If so, I apologize. Looking back, those were awkward times for all involved.
There were other bad parts: the way the floor in the locker rooms felt gooey when you didn’t have shoes to wear inside, the warmness of the kiddie pool when you ran through the low water for no real reason other than to be annoying and the dreaded hourly 15-minute pool breaks, also known as adult swim.
You wanted to be there at noon, and you wanted to stay until five. Except on the day of baseball games, when my dad insisted I couldn’t go for fear of tiring out my arms and legs.
The biggest problem revolved around finding a ride if your parents were busy or refused to provide transportation. Hell, I’d walk from across town on occasion if need be because being at the pool was that important at the time.
Seems crazy to think about it now.
I admit it’s been a good chunk of years (decades maybe?) since I stepped foot inside that chain-linked fence with the intention of swimming. Soon, no one will be able to go. No season passes, no scraping together a few bucks for a one-day admission, no pool at all.
Recently, the Platte City Parks and Recreation Department voted to open the pool for this summer season. This will be the facility’s last season, assuming it survives until August.
The infrastructure is failing, and city officials simply can’t put more money into the facility to prolong its life — a special existence for many of us who grew up in town.
The diving board will be removed soon because the city’s insurance company can’t cover it. Updated codes require a 10-foot depth of water to support a diving board. Platte City’s pool only goes 8½ feet deep.
As city administrator DJ Gehrt said, the pool was already functionally obsolete, and now, it’s operationally obsolete as well.
I’ll still miss its quirks. I can’t help it.
I’m well aware the pool doesn’t hold the same nostalgic spot for the current generation. Attendance had been suffering for a while, but a recent survey of Platte City residents did indicate that a lot of voters favor a new pool (about 70 percent) but many of those don’t want to fund the multiple millions of dollars required to build a new facility, either at the existing spot or elsewhere in town.
Gehrt believes the decision could come down to new pool or gymnasium/community center.
Regardless, there won’t be a pool next year, and there won’t be one for undetermined amount of time. The city has discussed working out an agreement for reduced costs for residents to use the Community Center North’s indoor pool at a reduced cost.
That could provide a nice alternative, but not the same atmosphere — no sunburns because you refused to apply sunscreen, no blistering hot car at the end of a long summer day, no chance to find your next girlfriend/boyfriend.
I told you that was the most important part.
For now, I’ll reminisce on the days of Better Than Ezra and TLC crackling from the speakers of an oldschool boombox near the entrance and the cool, teenage lifeguards that I admired. I’ll miss that pool, maybe others will to when it’s gone.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.