More than just age and disrepair led Lubbock to replace most public pools with splash pads for summer 2024

Artist rendering of splash pads, Maxey Park, Lubbock, Texas

(Image above provided by City of Lubbock)

Lubbock has not quite gotten out of the swimming pool business, but this summer it’s getting close. The city will replace the pools in Maxey Park, Mae Simmons Park and Rodgers Park (Montelongo Pool) with splash pads.

Clapp Park will be the only public pool.

The pools were in bad shape, according to Kalee Robinson, park development superintendent for the city’s parks and recreation department.

“We were not able to make the repairs necessary to get them open,” said Robinson.

In June 2019, a petition on with more than 3,000 signatures demanded, “We must stop the City of Lubbock from closing the only swimming pool that we have in East Lubbock.”

The city in response said it had no plans to close the pool. That changed in early 2023 with the announcement that only Clapp opened for the season.

Beyond age and disrepair, another form of neglect plagued the pools, said city councilwoman Sheila Patterson-Harris.

“People were not utilizing them,” Patterson-Harris said. “Some days there might have been 20 young kids there.”

A 2022 parks and recreation master plan cited a survey of Lubbock residents as saying 66 percent of respondents do not use the pools.

Pool attendance Lubbock, Texas

Here’s the plan

In August, the City Council set aside $5.7 million for new splash pads to replace the three defunct pools – mostly funds from American Rescue Plan Act. Add the demolition costs and new restrooms, and the city projected a total cost of $7.3 million.

By contrast, just one brand new pool costs $8 million or more, Robinson said.

The splash pads, to be designed and installed by Kraftsman Commercial Playgrounds & Water Parks, include covered picnic areas. Rodgers and Mae Simmons will also get new playgrounds. Maxey already has a playground nearby. People can use the splash pads for free.

  • Artist rendering of splash pads, Rodgers Park, Lubbock, Texas

(Images in slideshow provided by City of Lubbock) asked if the pads can be reserved for special events.

“At this time, we are working on our policies as far as private rentals go and do not currently have an official plan set in place just yet,” Robinson said.

The master plan called for the reconstruction of Clapp Pool and possibly constructing a natatorium and recreation center with a range of aquatic programs.

The natatorium needs a feasibility study, according to the master plan, and it would support regional sports and tourism. Such a facility, if coupled with an indoor community recreation center, might cost $100 million or more, Robinson said.

Despite the master plan, Clapp faces an uncertain future, Robinson said.

“There will certainly be a time whenever we do have to look into replacing that pool or potentially putting a splash pad in its place as well,” Robinson said.

Why not fix the pools?

As one example, there was a leak in the water balance system in the Montelongo Pool. Once the city looked deeper, there were other problems.

“These repairs would have caused us to exceed the $50,000 threshold which would then trigger ADA compliance and would have caused us to have to completely remodel all three pools,” Robinson explained.

Completely remodeling the pools would cost millions of dollars.

The splash pads were cheaper and easier.

  • Public swimming pool in Clapp Park, Lubbock, Texas
    Clapp Park

(Slideshow images from Clapp Park and Mae Simmons Park)

A lot of history

For a time, a pool in Mackenzie Park served as the only one in Lubbock – followed by Clapp and Mae Simmons, according to the May 31, 1953, edition of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Lubbock segregated people in those days including kids at the pools.

“The Mae Simmons Pool, also under construction, will be the first swimming facility available to Negroes here,” The A-J reported.

Sheila Patterson-Harris said, “I understand the nostalgia about it. I was a Mae Simmons girl.”

Simmons was also Patterson-Harris’ second-grade teacher. The name alone carries a lot of history, but so does the pool.

“Mae Simmons pool was used for where the Miss Black Lubbock pageants were held,” Harris said. It was also an important place during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

“Some of the activists would come to town and we listened to them there – and Eric Strong because he was a great storyteller,” Patterson Harris said.

Strong (1952-2017) was an activist, writer, poet and founder of the Roots Historical Arts Council in Lubbock.

Support for splashpads

A city survey found 69 percent want splash pads in parks.

“It’s been a topic that people have just been constantly asking us about,” Robinson said. “It’s been really well accepted.”

“Not everybody’s gonna be happy,” Robinson said. “There are still some people that wish it was still a pool.”

In a video the city posted online, councilman Mark McBrayer said, “I think these splash pads are an opportunity for parents and kids to have a chance to get out and enjoy themselves – meet other parents with kids in our parks. It just adds to the enjoyment in our community.”

In the same video, councilwoman Christy Martinez-Garcia said, “It’s something new, something fresh. It’s such a great opportunity for our neighborhood.”

Author: James Clark- James Clark is the associate editor of Lubbock Lights. He worked in radio, television and digital media for a combined total of more than 30 years. He was Director of Digital News Content at KAMC, KLBK and for nearly 10 years.