A large tract of land on the southern edge of Gretna sits mostly quiet these days, vacant farmland stretching across the 80-acre plot.

Several years from now, the area could be filled with the sights and sounds of golf discs whizzing through the air, fishing lures splashing into water and dogs playing in a pup-focused park.

Gretna leaders are envisioning transforming the city-owned land north of Capehart Road and west of 204th Street into a massive outdoor recreation destination, complete with an 18-hole disc golf course, fishing pond and dog park alongside an outdoor education center, group picnic area and amphitheater.

A major component of the project’s master plan is a modern aquatics center that would replace the city’s aging, ailing pool. The new facility would be available to the Gretna High School swim team, which is often forced to travel to Omaha pools far from Gretna to practice.

That’s all years away from fruition. The city has yet to figure out how the project will be funded, and the master plan — unveiled at an open house last month and later approved by the City Council — is only a rough sketch.

But if all goes according to plan, the project will offer Gretna’s citizens a signature park unlike anything else in the city. “We don’t have a major park in the community,” said Jeff Kooistra, city administrator.

The southwest corner of the site already is home to the Fields at Gretna, a $290,000 cluster of soccer fields that opened in 2015. The new master plan calls for the installation of baseball and softball fields north of the soccer complex, which, combined with the outdoor amenities on the eastern half of the land, would form a 160-acre sports and recreation area.

The project doesn’t have a set price tag, but Kooistra said it probably would be in the tens of millions of dollars. The portion of the park that doesn’t include the pool or ballfields could cost $10 million. Add that to the $6 million fields and the undetermined cost of the pool, and the final bill will be significant.

“It’s going to be a lot of money,” Kooistra said. “It’s all about the money.”

Gretna’s city pool near U.S. Highway 6 and West Angus Road, built in the late 1960s, is nearing the end of its life — last year, it suffered a major leak, and the repair company told the city it should continue exploring options for a new pool.

“Fifty years is awfully old,” Kooistra said.

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Twice a year, the City Council holds a joint meeting with the Gretna Public Schools board. A new pool has been on the agendas of those meetings for the last several years.

Gretna High School has never had a pool, which Superintendent Kevin Riley said has hindered the school’s swim team. Members currently alternate practice locations between the Jewish Community Center near 132nd and Pacific Streets or Mockingbird Hills southeast of 108th and L Streets.

Riley said that arrangement sometimes requires the team’s athletes to wake up at 4 a.m. to attend early morning practices.

“As a Class A school, you have to have as many activities and athletic opportunities and club opportunities for kids that you can so that they’re connected to your school in more ways than just the academic piece,” he said.

The school district and the city have been discussing options to share the cost of the pool, but no agreements have been finalized. Riley pointed to similar arrangements in Lincoln, Omaha and Elkhorn as models for the potential partnership.

Kooistra said the city plans to prioritize the completion of the pool as a first step. Before that happens, the city will need to figure out funding and then tackle some basic infrastructure needs, including land grading, water access and road pavement.

Elsewhere in Gretna, plans are moving forward to spruce up the appearance of the city’s historic downtown area along brick-paved McKenna Avenue.

Later this spring, city leaders are expected to accept bids for a downtown streetscape project that will add new lighting, planters, benches, perpendicular parking stalls and decorative brickwork along the avenue from Angus Street north to Wallace Street.

“I think it’ll look a lot nicer,” Kooistra said. “Dress things up.”

streetscape render

Separate from the park proposal, Gretna is moving forward with a downtown streetscape plan for McKenna Avenue from Angus Street to Wallace Street.

The $1.185 million project also will update infrastructure in the area, including the replacement of an outdated water main, the addition of a storm sewer system and the installation of wider sidewalks, accessible ramps and a raised crosswalk.

Town & Country Floral has sold flowers from the corner of McKenna Avenue and Angus Road for the past seven years. Owner Linda Hill said that years ago, the downtown area was a centerpoint of the city, but times have changed.

“There’s people that live in the area that don’t even know that the downtown exists,” she said.

But Hill said she’s excited by the plans for a spiffed-up downtown, where people come to walk, socialize and check out the local shops — the kind of small-town downtown “that feels like you’ve got a foundation.”

Construction on the streetscape is expected to begin later this year.

Reece covers Sarpy County for The World-Herald. He's a born-and-raised Nebraskan and UNL grad who spent time in Oklahoma and Virginia before returning home. Follow him on Twitter @reecereports. Phone: 402-444-1127

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