Capaha Park pool closed for good; city looks to spot's future

Friday, January 28, 2011
Capaha Park will undergo some changes this summer. With an aging facility and dwindling number of customers, Capaha Municipal Pool will be torn down. (Kristin Eberts)

At Capaha Park pool that summer, more than 1,100 people pushed their way past the gates, anxious to take a dip in Cape Girardeau's pristine new swimming pool.

"A madhouse," remarked one park official.

That was opening day, 1957. That was the year the $145,000 pool at Capaha Park opened for the first time to great excitement, greeted by a community that had been without a pool of any kind for more than a year.

But, after 53 years of service, the pool is no longer pristine. A second municipal pool has been built since then and recently underwent major renovations. And a new water park opened last summer, drawing huge numbers.

So now, when summer rolls around, for the first time since it opened, Capaha Park pool will remain dormant, leaving a hole in a park some describe as "the crown jewel" of Cape Girardeau's recreational facilities.

"Yeah, it's over," said Dan Muser, director of the city's parks and recreation department. "That pool has seen its last swimmer."

The city plans to begin deconstructing the pool this spring and has already begun taking a look at what might replace it, with talks focusing on ideas like a splash pad, a rock-climbing wall, playground equipment or new shelters.

The Capaha Park pool has had problems for decades, dating back to when Muser first was hired as parks supervisor in 1985.

"It wasn't in very good shape then," Muser said.

City leaders talked about replacing it as early as the late 1980s. The pool had already gone through $30,000 in repairs in 1985 to stop major leaks its basins. In 1991, another $35,000 was spent to renovate the bathhouse.

The most recent problems date back to 2004, when a leak in the chemical storage room of the pool briefly shut down the facility. The next year a broken circulating pump shut down the pool from mid-July through the remainder of the swimming season. In August 2009, the pool was forced to close for a few days while crews made electrical repairs.

"Over the years I used to kind of joke -- and it wasn't really a joke -- that every year we didn't know if it was going to open or not," Muser said. "It always depended on whatever problems we had that summer. This year we've said we're done with it. We can't do this anymore. It's just gotten to be one thing after another."

Muser also points out that attendance figures for the pool have been steadily declining. In 2005, more than 15,000 people visited the Capaha Park pool that summer. But in 2010, the same year the pool competed with Cape Splash Family Aquatic Center, those numbers dipped to 7,147. At Cape Splash last year, the average daily attendance was 1,400 people, Muser said.

"Three or four days at Cape Splash would add up to what we had all summer at the Capaha pool," Muser said. "Having Cape Splash this summer will take a lot of the sting out of not having that pool."

Bids will soon go out to find a contractor to take out the pool, which will initially be replaced with landscaping. At Tuesday night's city council meeting, parks advisory board chairman Danny Essner told council members it will be the advisory board's No. 1 priority to look at options for the pool spot, while taking a wider view of what would fit into the park as a whole.

Parks staff members are gathering information about what other communities are doing, Essner said. They've also asked David Markey, the architect who designed Cape Splash, to come up with ideas, he said.

"We're going to assemble a list of some of the options and try to pick out what's the best fit," Essner said. "It's very open-ended at this time."

Essner said the strongest possibility would be what he called a "spray pad," an area where water could be sprayed on park visitors, similar to the splash pads at the water park. Such a feature wouldn't require lifeguards and are typically low-maintenance, he said. Some even use motion detectors to activate.

Essner said the new feature could be paid for with some money from the parks and storm-water sales tax revenue, perhaps some profits from the water park or even savings that had gone to operate the pool.

"I just want it to be very aesthetically pleasing," Essner said. "What is there now, the pool and the bathhouse, is an eyesore. The rest of the park is beautiful, with those exceptions. But to fix up the pool would really be throwing good money after bad. We knew it was on its last legs."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

410 Kiwanis Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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