FLORENCE, Ky. — Florence City Council voted Tuesday night not to spend money to keep the aquatic center maintained this year. The center has been closed since 2019.
Brian Kinross has had four children make their rounds through the center. He said the memories attached to the aquatic center are part of the reason he's upset the city is looking to move on from the space.
"Instead of spending money on bulldozing the place and turning it into something useless like an amphitheater or a splash ground, that money could be used to upgrade this place so it could be a year-round facility," he said.
Florence Mayor Diane Whalen said it's time to move on from an aquatic center, even though it's less than 20 years old. She said the park has cost the city $3 million and has never turned a profit; that's why the council's vote on Tuesday is about going back to the drawing board.
"We'll keep the building, renovate the restrooms, make good use of what we do have here," she said. "But then what do we do inside? And as much as we hate to say demolition, demolition could start this fall just to be open next year."
Whalen said she believes the facility could become a multi-level playground, a splash park, a stage for live performances or a space for picnics and dining.
"Just opportunities," she said. "That’s what is encouraging to me. It’s sad to lose the pool, but I think sometimes when you look at an idea and say, yes, that worked 20 years ago. What are people looking for now?"
Florence resident Jenna Kemper, like Kinross, is concerned that not having the park means not making crucial family memories. Her children are part of a swim team that used the pool for its home meets.
"There's nothing else like this in Northern Kentucky," said Kemper. "If it's not a city pool anymore, what is it?"
Kemper said she feels sad that community members will drive by the center and not understand its usefulness to the local area.
"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."
The city plans to send surveys out online in mid-July asking residents what they'd like to see happen to the aquatic center.