Hearne: Silly Season in Media Surrounds ‘Crown Center Country Club’ Closing

Funny how everybody with a keyboard becomes an expert when a news story breaks…

Take Crown Center closing its fountains this week to public bathing. On one hand you’ve got a local blogger claiming a "TKC exclusive" because he says he was first to "break" the news. Hello. When a large, local corporation makes a grand announcement and sends out press releases that’s not a scoop.

Then there local TV stations to whom capturing a live body on location comes first. To the point that a nearby snowcone truck sales dude’s opinion of what the fountain’s closing means to KC got front-and-center treatment.

Ridiculously, Fox 4 News even managed to get a local lawyer to say that if a "kid was running around there and slipped and bumped their head I probably would not take the case."

The idea being, why would Crown Center close its fountain over of minor liability worries?

However, in the wide world of clear, intelligent thinking, while the attorney probably wouldn’t take the case if a kid scraped his knee either…

What if he fell while playing in the fountain and was paralyized from the neck down?

So of course we got some meaningful TV reporting there.

Finally, a Kansas City Star columnist with a nose for uninteresting news finally found a topic she could get some traction on and penned a very well-written column. Unfortunately it was based on the faulty premise that "behavior by a few ruined Crown Center fountain."

Quite the opposite.

It was behavior by the many that "ruined" public use of the fountain. Too many people were going, hanging out and racing about while probably going to the bathroom while in it. More kids were going – not fewer – according to Crown Center, because of its new Lego and aquarium kiddie magnets.

So great column, but not very great thinking.

Hats off however to said columnist however for noting that – unlike virtually every swimming pool in the town – there are no bathrooms near the fountains. And to my knowledge, no clearly posted signs directing people to where such distant bathrooms might be found.

So of course the kiddies were gonna go…just like the birds overhead.

In response to my reporting update from 1998 in which the KC Health Deptartment said it had no jurisdiction over the fountain because it was not a swimming pool, Fox 4 fired back: "The Health Department says Crown Center has always passed water inspections."

Au contraire.

Always is a pretty long time – 40 years in this case. And as far as Health Department spokesman Jeff Hershberger knows, "always" at Crown Center began in 2008 after "some pretty big changes when the pool ordinances were expanded to include spray grounds and Crown Center started applying for permits to have (the fountain) as a spray ground," he says. "And they do have a water filtration system in place that is similar to what swimming pools have."

That’s the good news. Now the bad.

"It’s very difficult for any spray ground to keep the chemicals perfectly in line because there’s so many people running through them, playing and sitting on the nozzles," Hershberger says. "I mean, it’s difficult enough for pools."

And again, not because there are so "few," but rather because there are so many using it.

With everything else the faraway bathrooms couldn’t have helped, Hershberger says.

"When I was a little kid you had to go through the bathroom and take a shower before you could get in the pool," he says. "That’s not the case at Crown Center, and it’s hard to collect the water (to treat it properly) on a spray ground. And while people today have swim diapers, they don’t necessarily change diapers properly."

In 1998 now-deceased Health Department honcho E.J. Olomiye told me, no way he’d let his kids go in the water at Crown Center Country Club.

Raising the question, would Hershberger?

"With the system they have now, I’d be more comfortable," he hedges. "But would I put my face in that water? No. I have enough problem putting my face in the private pools where I know how the water is being kept up."

Hershberger’s take on why Crown Center came to its senses so suddenly and decided to close the fountain to the public?

"I think at the heart of it is it’s because of what the national trends are for spray grounds," he says. "And that is to have a secondary water treatment system in place rather than just a regular system like you would see in a pool. But I don’t know if they’re looking ahead or if they’re looking at the liability or what."

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8 Responses to Hearne: Silly Season in Media Surrounds ‘Crown Center Country Club’ Closing

  1. harley says:

    summation of this story
    1. Kids go to crown center fountains
    2. they cool off in the fountains
    3. Too many black kids play in the fountains
    4. the water in the fountains is nasty
    5. kids go to the bathroom in pools so they probably
    go to the bathroom in the fountains
    6. guys who run the city would not go in the fountains
    7. HEARNE would not let his girls or his new wife go in
    the fountains
    8. business ownersof crown center don’t want a bunch of
    black kids in their fountains.
    9. its been going on for years
    10. Hearne broke the story 20 years ago
    11. Hearne has a nose for news
    12. Hearne thinks the other news people…including the fat guy stole
    his thunder by being second tocover the story.
    13. Anyone who goes in the fountains…or lets their kids in the
    fountains is a complete fool.
    14. this story is the most important story to ever break in
    kansas city

  2. Super Dave says:

    “Funny how everybody with a keyboard becomes an expert when a news story breaks…”

    So Hearne I have to ask are you saying that you are not an expert? Or just another person with a keyboard who thinks he is an expert about the other experts adding to the media frenzy?

  3. BarKeeper says:

    Worked There…Saw It All
    Worked there a couple years. Could never believe the BS Crown Center put up with from the whiskey tango’s during the summer.

    Raw sewage in the fountains almost all the time, and parents totally oblivious to it. Lawn chairs, coolers, toss the cigarette butts right at your feet, curse, belch, fart, yap endlessly on cell phones, argue with fellow freeloaders, bitch about the distance to the bathrooms. Don’t forget a fair amount of panhandling for cigs and bus fare.

    I can’t believe it took this long for them to wake up and close this unsanitary cess pool.

  4. Hearne says:

    Of course I’m not, Super Dave, but…
    I have covered this fountain and swimming in other KC fountains for upwards of 15 years, working with and asking probing questions of Health Department and Parks Department officials, including meeting with them while they tested the fountain water at my request.

    Nor did I just talk to a couple mommies and daddies and a snow cone salesman, opting instead to get reasoned, specific answers to questions and insights from the Health Department as to the closing.

    And what I sure didn’t do was ignore what Crown Center officials said and write something dumb about the reason for the closing being the behavior of the few when the opposite was the case. That being that increased traffic because of the new kiddie attractions at Crown Center were attracting more kids to the fountains and causing increased contamination.

  5. Kerouac says:

    Life is a cesspool & fountain…
    not sure why I wrote that, just struck me as (semi) profound. May you have another? You may. If one prefers M&M’s white (or red or green etc.) to brown (or blue or orange, etc.) ones, are they racist? Possibly; opinion varies. Under the microscope public opinion – speaking as said – who cares.

    A microbiological viewing tool, most people have some parasites: liver flukes, trichina cysts, some amoebas & other parasites. This does not mean that they are causing disease, however; an healthy body can often keep them at bay (somewhat similar the situation with toxic metals: everyone has some.)

    Stink or swim… that is the question; or maybe it’s ‘we are all dirty, unwashed and fall short the glory of Shangri-la’. This too shall pass.

    “unsanitary cess pool.”

    – i.e., free gifts & tuna fish (but that is beside the point, really.) Reference ‘alas, parting be such sweet sorrow’ suicide note some 40 years ago: were he still here, what would George Sanders say about this sump(tuous) CCCC fountain of a sort?

    “Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.”

    EM Cioran eulogized those who have escaped into death – “they have solved every problem” – ‘all things’ a footnote on the journey…

  6. Mysterious_J says:

    Hearne has some nerve
    criticizing others for breaking non-stories!

  7. Ranger Danger says:

    Don’t lose your daytime job, dude. Your literary skills are in the toilet. Are you a sophomore at Junior College?

  8. the dude says:

    Sounds more like
    a super senior at Greendale CC to me.

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