LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — The Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation Department has released surveillance footage and more information after a family’s party at Summit Waves was abruptly canceled.
The family who reserved the popular water park said they felt they were racially discriminated against.
The Evans family, including their two teenagers, said they’d paid $2,000 to host a large birthday bash for their two teenagers last weekend at Summit Waves.
However, when they showed up for Saturday’s party, pool managers wouldn’t allow them inside the park, and canceled the party. Water park directors told the family they were uncomfortable with the gathering.
“It appears to have been canceled simply because the park staff was uncomfortable with a group of Black teenagers having a pool party to enjoy the end of the summer,” said Chris Evans, the teens’ father.
Lee’s Summit Mayor Bill Baird spoke out Tuesday morning, saying the city was investigating.
“Unfortunately, statements were made by a Parks and Recreation manager at Summit Waves that were inappropriate and insensitive,” Baird said in a statement.
The parks department said it completed an internal review and identified “missed processes and miscommunication that led to the cancellation.”
“A sincere apology is owed to the Evans family and our Lee’s Summit community,” Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation said in a statement. “LSPR strives to be a respectful and inclusive organization where all members of our community feel welcome and appreciated. Inappropriate language, social media posts and behavior are not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The parks department said the family advertised the party on social media, which was not part of the agreement. The department said Summit Waves staff tried to call the family multiple times but didn’t hear back.
Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation also said it received calls from other parents asking about party details and safety concerns.
LSPR decided to cancel the party at 5 p.m. Saturday. The event was scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“Safety pertaining to the anticipated crowd size and the potential impact it might have on party guests and the staff was the sole reason for the cancellation,” LSPR said in a statement.
The department says they heard back from the family at 5:30 p.m. and staff notified them the party was canceled. Evans refutes that, saying they didn’t hear from the park until they showed up for the party.
LSPR said the family arrived at Summit Waves at 6:15 p.m., and staff again told them the event had been called off.
Lee’s Summit police estimated about 500 people were there between 7-7:30 p.m., twice the number Summit Waives said it agreed to for the event. But Evans said staff and police could have been confused by partygoers showing up and guests leaving when the water park when it closed for the event.
However, the department said through its investigation, it learned that Summit Waves staff failed to arrange required security for the party.
Then on Sunday, the parks department said it learned a Summit Waves lifeguard made a “disturbing” social media post.
“The comments were appalling and not condoned by Parks and Recreation, and are inconsistent with the culture I know the City of Lee’s Summit strives to reflect,” Baird said.
Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation said its administrator contacted the family and apologized for the incident on Saturday as well as the social media post.
The department said it has given the family a refund, and the family’s attorney said they’ve also been offered a free party. But that attorney said legal action isn’t outside the realm of possibility at this point.
The parks department said the administrator and family have agreed to a follow-up conversation Wednesday to continue discussions.
“LSPR intends to complete a comprehensive review of the rental process, including communication. LSPR will also enhance training to align with the city’s diversity and inclusion efforts. LSPR is committed to serving all people in our community and providing exceptional parks and recreation experiences for everyone,” the department said.