Sale or Rising Star land points toward new water park in Platte City

There’s now a tentative deal in place, and the future of an outdoor water park facility in Platte City seems to have a clear direction. Think exiting the Platte City Parks and Recreation offices, going across the street and down a sidewalk.

Many of us with nostalgic memories will know the path as running between the Platte County R-3 School District’s old high school (later known as the annex) and Platte City Elementary (later known as Rising Star Elementary).

During each of the past two monthly meetings, the Platte City Parks and Recreation board met with engineers and architects to research ideas for a new pool facility. Much work remains to be done to build a new facility, likely more of a water park than just a pool, but the process seems well under way.

Last week, Larkin Aquatics in partnership with WSKF Architects made a presentation to the board.

Representatives offered a look at the steps ahead and provided examples of past projects with associated price tags. One of the slide’s also took a look at a couple of possibilities for the City of Platte City.

When referencing the site to be used, Larkin Aquatics’ renderings were overlaid on Rising Star Elementary.

Long rumored as a site of interest, this made so much sense, and after some quick negotiations, the district and city came to a memorandum of understanding, which puts in place terms for the sale of the land. The Platte City Pool, which opened in 1965, closed for good on Aug. 9, 2015 after 50 years in service. The simple L-shaped facility became outdated and eventually became functionally and operationally obsolete for the city to maintain.

However, talk of the future for pools in Platte City had already shifted toward a new site.

The Platte County R-3 School District closed Rising Star Elementary after this past school year. It had been the only building not in a general campus area for the north part of the district and holding onto the land won’t be needed.

One of the obvious buyers would be the city, which maintains a healthy working relationship and partnership on other projects with the district. In addition, closed schools often end up in the hands of a city anyway, so this avoids any potential down time that would allow the property to become further blighted.

Platte County superintendent Dr. Mike Reik and Platte City city administrator DJ Gehrt had long expressed mutual interest in a deal for the property. The fact a pool presentation to the parks board centered on that piece of land turned out be a good indicator of where this story goes. I just didn’t expect it to develop so quickly.

Many in the community, myself included, have reminisced in the past couple of years as two pieces of our childhood were shut down.

Now, the most likely outcomes for the old pool (parking lot for county offices?) and old elementary school (water park) will remove those icons. This will truly be a huge change for Platte City but looks like a positive for all involved.

As far as a pool facility returning to Platte City, don’t expect it to be next summer.

Larkin Aquatics told the board the next step would be to start planning, a process that should involve community input. The planning will come down to three questions: What do you want? What do you need? What can you afford?

The board seemed very receptive to that idea from Andy Smith of Larkin Aquatics.

Public support has been strong for the City of Platte City to have a pool facility. However, even the supporters have shown hesitancy to support the project with a tax increase, although at least a small sales tax would appear to be necessary to fund a water park which will cost more than $1 million to construct.

Finding a niche will be important.

In the Platte City Pool’s heyday, customers flocked from neighboring small communities, and that could be the case again with the right amenities. Citizens will be asked to provide ideas for what should be the priorities for this new water park, which could help create a facility that attracts not only customers but workers to Platte City to support the facility.

“There’s so much more now that people are asking for,” said Mark Spurgeon of WSKF Architects. “They’re not just looking to go swimming, really. They’re going there to do something, to be entertained. That’s why it helps to get input from the people that are going to be using it and paying for it.”

We might still be a couple of years out on this. The likely steps would be extensive planning, a public vote on a tax proposal, design and finally construction. However, the agreed to sale gives us a start, the one many of us identified a while back as a strong possibility, and it’s nice to see the talk progressing to action.

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.