|City/Town: • Kansas City|
|Location Class: • Commercial|
|Built: • July 4, 1958 | Abandoned: • 1992|
|Status: • Abandoned|
|Photojournalist: • Billy Wade|
Wyandot Swim Club
Once a luxury swim club is now a derelict memory of what it used to be. The vision for the swim club came when Ellis McGeorge “Mac” O’Bannon was engaging in a discussion over what makes a perfect swimming pool, both competitive and leisurely. Realizing the demand in the area he and Co-Founder Charles E. Moser carefully executed their plan rallying to get the support of the community, which didn’t take much convincing. A few others that helped get the venture off the ground with signups were Forrest E. Lynn, L.R. Snodgrass and Sue Richards who collectively brought in 315 of the 1,600 members.
Five acres were purchased and developed with one swimming pool, not your ordinary pool though. An Olympic-sized swimming pool. The magnificent grand opening was July 4, 1958, with family membership fees costing $50 and individuals costing $20. Over 2,000 people showed up to celebrate and have some fun in the sun. And less than a year later a second would be built by O.W. Hughes Corporation who was awarded the $100,000 contract. It would be the first pool in the area to meet the standards of the Amateur Athletic Union. Seven and a half additional acres were also purchased to allow for the construction of a two-section wading pool, clubhouse, snack bar, locker room, picnic area and playground.
Bearing the name Wyandot Swim Club, and yes they spelled Wyandot like that, they offered many great swim activities for kids and adults. Of those to start included three instruction classes and a synchronized swim course. And just a few years after opening hosted the three-day Heart of America AAU Championship swim meet. The Wyandot Swim Club taking home seven wins! It continued to hold a lengthy list of events throughout its years bringing in hundreds of swimmers from all over the country.
Unfortunately, the Co-Founders O’Bannon and Moser ran into some legal arguments in late 1963. Moser had filed a civil suit against O’Bannon in hopes to end the lease between them. Moser had ownership of the land and had built the pool and its facilities only leasing them to O’Bannon who in turn leased them to the Wyandot Swim Club with O’Bannon being the manager. Moser filed the suit claiming O’Banno failed to make records available and having a thorough record of accounts, therefore breaching the lease agreement. From later newspapers it seems Mac O’Bannon retained ownership of the property and club for many years, seeming to overcome the legal battle.
The park reached peak membership in 1975 with 3,500 members after months of renovations and improvements had taken place. The two 50-meter pools were sandblasted, repainted, and changing it from ten to eight lanes to allow for more space during competitions. But everyone knows once you reach a peak, there is a downhill trend right after. Membership throughout the eighties continued to decline to hit 1,000 in 1983. The free community, apartment and at-home pools became more and more popular.
Kansas City Beach Club
The summer of 1986 was the last year it ran as the Wyandot Swim Club. The owners saw the demise coming and decided to sell it, for a short period of time it seems it became Sunflower Swim Club. It then was sold again and purchased by Sue & De Miller who changed the name to Kansas City Beach Club. Quickly they ran into financial troubles reporting a 14 percent income decline within a year after purchasing the property. They closed the pool in 1990 but tried to figure something else out, so they went to the County Commission. The Millers had proposed selling the property to the county at $1 per year for the next 25 years. Another condition of the deal would be that De Miller would be hired as the manager on a $50,000-a-year salary. Joe Dick, Commission Chairman, was weary and said the proposal didn’t seem to be a good deal for the county. Understandably because the County would then be responsible for the thousands of dollars in updates/repairs needed and responsible for paying the $28,000 in back taxes on the property.
The offer was not accepted by the commission and within a few months the Millers had filed for bankruptcy. Their biggest unsecured debt being a loan to Charles Moser for the Wyandot Swim Club for $375,000. Because the property was valued only at $110,000 a bankruptcy trustee permitted the Millers to retain ownership of the swim club property. Just two years later Miller approached the Kansas City Kan City Council asking for a $60,000 loan to pay off delinquent taxes. Shockingly they agreed being as he was a former county employee and paid by dipping into a discretionary fund. Unfortunately, Miller was not able to come up with a clear title for the property and in turn withdrew his request for a $60,000 city loan to pay off the back taxes.
Regardless of the years that have gone by, the lives that have continued to move forward, and thousands of people will carry with them the memories of swimming at the Wyandot Swim Club. Many have even started a Facebook group dedicated to sharing pictures and memories of the club in its heyday. If you would like to join the Facebook group Click Here.
Gallery Below of Wyandot Swim Club
The Kansas City Kansan July 3, 1959
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My Dad was not a spender on luxuries, but my Mom convinced him in the late ‘60s that we needed to join Wyandot Swim Club and we were members for many years. I took swim lessons there (at 8:00am in early June when the water was so cold!) and when I hear old songs from the early 70’s, I remember the juke box in the snack shack playing the latest hits while I spent my entire weekly allowance on an ice cream cone or an order of french fries.
Wonderfully written Emily. Great historical summation. From the primary sources, to the high quality photo’s taken, this was very informative and a hidden gem in my community.