Potential for new south side Sioux Falls pool part of city's aquatics vision

Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation is planning a major revamp of its pool system.

Frank Olson Pool.PNG
Frank Olson is one of three city pools that need replacing, according a report from the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department.
Contributed / City of Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls is in the midst of planning for a wave of improvements for the city’s pool system.

It’s a big plan that is still very much in the early stages but in a series of recent public input meetings there are a couple things that are clear.

People want an additional pool on the south side.

And more shade everywhere.

City councilors got their first look at the potential plans during an informational meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13.


Details and price tags for the reimagining of five aquatic sites in Sioux Falls are still down the road with hopes for construction in 2024. Nothing is set, but Parks and Recreation Department officials hope to fund the project with a quality of life bond.

Frank Olson, Kuehn and McKennan park pools are all around 50 years old and need to be replaced, while Terrace and Laurel Oaks facilities need updating, said Don Kearney, Parks and Recreation director.

Don Kearney.jpg
Don Kearney, director of Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department.

“We also wanted to create that vision of aquatics could look like, realizing that we may not be able to get it all done as part of this initial quality of life bond, but whether through phasing or private investment we would like to reach out and really try to make sure we have a plan that addresses the growth of the community,” Kearney told councilors.

A new pool on the south side was something that came up frequently during public input sessions, particularly related to needs at the Laurel Oaks pool near 49th Street and Southeastern Avenue.

Council Chairman Curt Soehl said a south side pool is a priority based on what he’s hearing.

That may mean not waiting for the quality of life bond, essentially a loan that the city pays off over time. Financially, the city is ahead of projections and in a good place consider paying for some projects with cash, he said.

“We will question the finance director to see how much over budget we come with our sales tax and other revenues,” Soehl said in an interview. “I’ve told the finance director and the mayor that if we have any excess revenues, that we pay for the building projects and other projects that we’ve already planned for.”

That could save money long-term because the city isn’t paying the interest on the bond.


The city won’t know how much money might be available at the end of the year, but in a separate presentation, Finance Director Shawn Pritchett said sales tax revenues are currently about 13% above last year.

That surplus gives the mayor and the council some room to dream about projects like new pools.

The aquatics plan is a multiphase process including extensive public input. What people want and what they can pay for are different levels of dreaming.

Shade was a key point for every site, said Will Younger of Pros Consulting, the Indianapolis firm working with the city on the project.

“A lack of shade was consistent at every phase of the public engagement,” he said.

And overall, it’s clear Sioux Fallsians relish their rather limited time lounging at an outdoor pool.

Leon Younger.PNG
Leon Younger, president of Pros Consulting.

“People love their aquatic facilities in this town,” said Leon Younger, president of Pros Consulting. “We work all over the country and this is one of the few cities that I’ve ever seen that pools are so important to people.”

Kearney’s report to the council included renderings for how each of the pool sites could be renovated. They are conceptual illustrations, rather than actual plans, but they do give the public some idea what could happen.


One of the major decisions will be whether to include indoor pools at any of the sites. The Midco Aquatic Center at Spellerberg Park is the only city-owned indoor pool. An indoor pool at either Kuehn or Frank Olson would not be on that scale, Kearney and park staff said.

Health and wellness are central to any discussion about recreation facilities, Leon Younger said.

“One of things that really impresses me about Sioux Falls is how well you’ve done, and laid out your parks and your trail systems,” he said. “You are at the top of your game in this country in terms of outdoor facilities. It’s really the indoor facilities where you have not been able to keep up with expectations. I consider you a cold weather town based on location so having the ability to have year round activity for your community just strengthens the value of living here and the quality of life of living here.”

The next phase is to explore potential private funding and begin the master design process, including deeper detail and cost estimates. The decision about what gets done when and how much it will cost would be part of the budget process in August.

If approved, construction would begin in 2024.

See the full report including scenarios for each city pool below.

Sioux Falls Aquatics.pptx by inforumdocs on Scribd

Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for Sioux Falls Live. Reach him at
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