Kansas State University Announces Permanent Closure of Natatorium

In September 2020, Kansas State University, better known as K-State or KSU, in Manhattan, KS, announced that it would close its natatorium for the fall semester and that the facility would be permanently shuttered within three years. Friday, KSU announced an acceleration of its plans to close the facility permanently, per KMAN Radio.

Citing ongoing maintenance issues and $4 million in needed repairs, the university will not foot the bill. Due to the facility’s designation as a recreational facility, it is ineligible to receive money from the Educational Buildings Fund, an account presided over by the Kansas board of regents used to maintain educational buildings throughout the state.

Though K-State has not had a varsity swim team since 1976 when the “Wildkittens” had to fund their own program, the Natatorium has served as the center for all aquatics-related activities in Riley County, Geary County, Potowatamie County, Marshall County, and Clay County for decades.

Since the closure of the Natatorium, swimmers in Manhattan have been without a local indoor pool–the nearest is located in Wamego, approximately 25 minutes east (by car) of the KSU Natatorium. Fortunately for residents of the Little Apple, a 6-lane indoor pool is coming to Manhattan in the form of Genesis Health Clubs, which is in the process of opening a new facility in Manhattan.

June through August, Manhattan residents have access to lane space at the City Park Pool, CiCo Park Pool, and Northview Pool. Summer 2021, however, will likely see CiCo Park Pool closed, due to “staffing and infrastructure challenges in many departments, including the parks division technicians who are critical to opening and operating the pools’ water chemistry, pumps, filters and other components to ensure safe water multiple times a day,” according city manager Ron Fehr, per the Manhattan Mercury newspaper. As of Sunday, February 28th, over 600 people have signed a petition called ‘Reopen All Manhattan City Pools‘ to keep all taxpayer-funded pools open in Manhattan for the summer of 2021.

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3 months ago

I mean they don’t have a team. and while this isn’t the ideal year for fair construction costs but then the next year or two they could probably build out a new facility for half of the cost of renovations.

Reply to  Xman
3 months ago

The current facility was relatively old, the pool layout antiquated and bound in by the structure of the facility, and it couldn’t be expanded due to its location. The natatorium was in near constant use, a new pool for students in the community is needed and I am sure will be eventually built. In the meantime this is an unfortunate setback.

3 months ago

I’ve heard the theory floated around that this onrush of athleticism we’re seeing in swimming (I know a lot of people don’t want to hear it, but the sport is getting better athletes than it ever has before), can be correlated back to when football concussion research really started to pick up momentum c. 2003. Those kids would be about 17 or 18 right now.

So confused
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 months ago

I agree. As someone who values the health and well being of my child I actively chose sports that would align with that value. Football and soccer were not options due to the possible head injuries. I know many others with kids my kids ages that agreed. Swimming is the sport that keeps my kids busy and in good shape while preserving their health.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 months ago

That’s super interesting. Could it also be a shift in dryland programming, too? (I assume they’re feeding into one another.)

Reply to  Braden Keith
3 months ago

Concussion or any other factor that is keeping kids from starting in football might be part of the story. But to get them involved in swimming requires access to pools, which is a front-end cost, bourn by whoever foots the bill for a pool (city, county, HS, university). Other sports have costs more directly bourn by parents (uniforms, equipment).

Access to pools is certainly available in some places, as others have mentioned (Indiana, CA, FL, TX, GA, DC suburbs, etc). But it is scarce in other areas (Manhattan, KS).

Another setting that has grown as youth football has shrunk? “E-sports.” An e-sports college arena or whatever it’s called probably costs 2-5% of even a renovation to places like the… Read more »

3 months ago

What happened to all the fees paid for by area residents for swimming lessons and pool access for the last 60 years? Where did that money go? To the rest of the University?

Reply to  Sam
3 months ago

Students got free access. I do not know what the community paid but access was very cheap. The pool was not run to make a profit. With the antiquated systems I am sure the University was losing money by operating it. The University isn’t a city, so it can’t build a new pool by raising taxes. It can raise the money from donors, increase fees for current students, or re-allocate money from its budget to pay for a new pool. The political will to do any of those was not there while the natatorium was in existence. My guess is that now that Manhattanites are staring at no public pool access there will be a new facility built with some… Read more »

Reply to  Will
3 months ago

Honestly this is more than likely the case for any university natatorium.

Reply to  Yup
3 months ago

I don’t know what exactly Will means by “free,” but when I was a student at Texas A&M, it was “free” only if you consider “free” to be “one of those fees you just pay because you have to and there’s no incremental cost every time you walk into the pool.” There was, though, a separate Rec fee that paid for, among other things, access to the pool.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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