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Aquatics Facility Petition Sent to County Board

by Katie Pyzyk | July 20, 2012 at 11:00 am | 3,256 views | 63 Comments

A petition from the Friends of Long Bridge Park containing more than 2,400 signatures has made its way to the County Board, asking for funding to construct the Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Center.

The County Board is scheduled to vote on Saturday (July 21) on four referenda to be included on the November 6 ballot. The Local Parks and Recreation referendum includes $42.5 million for the proposed aquatics center. That would cover a portion of the total cost, which is estimated at more than $70 million.

The aquatics center has been a hot topic, and generated much discussion at a Capital Improvement Plan hearing last month. Opponents say the facility would put too much of a long-term financial burden on the county and on taxpayers. Others say the funds should instead go toward more essential projects such as repairing infrastructure.

One high profile supporter of the aquatics center is Arlington native Tom Dolan, winner of two Olympic gold medals in swimming. He recently wrote an email to the Board emphasizing the importance of this type of facility in the county, highlighting the community programming and revenue benefits to the county.

“Arlington has been waiting a long time for a facility of this magnitude,” said Dolan.

In addition to the aquatics center, the petition requests funding to complete other planned developments at Long Bridge Park over the next 10 years. Those include a fourth synthetic turf sports field and a pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the George Washington Memorial Parkway to the Mount Vernon Trail.

Petitioners note that the park plans were based on a county-wide recreational assessment in 2004, showing unmet demand for aquatics, outdoor field sports and recreation such as nature walks. They say the improvements and additions at Long Bridge Park would fill these demands by providing a place for people of all ages to enjoy events and fitness opportunities.

“People who visit the first phase of the park are amazed by the transformation of a former brownfield into healthy green space,” said Eric Cassel, Friends of Long Bridge Park board member. “They want to see and enjoy its full potential as soon as possible.”

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  • Marie Antoinette

    “Arlington has been waiting a long time for a facility of this magnitude,” said Dolan.

    “It’s a trap. Our shields can’t handle firepower of this magnitude,” said Admiral Akbar.

    All kidding aside, I’d much rather have this constructed than the Folly Trolley.

    • South Awwlington

      A public pool is more important that ensuring mobility along one of the most populated corridors in the County? Interesting. Not that I oppose Long Bridge, but that transportation infrastructure is less important to you than a recreation facility. When do you anticipate hosting cocktail hours at Artisphere?

      • WeiQiang

        Up Front: I have no studies or links for the following opinion:

        I’d wager that the demographics for the folks who completed the survey tended to be richer and maybe with more kids than those who didn’t complete the survey. On the Maslow’s hierarchy scale, a world-class cement pond seems a bit toward the self-actualization end of the scale. So, for the survey to show a need for a specialized facility like that, it would be interesting to see the demo’s.

        Since the surveys on the trolley haven’t suggested an either/or choice, you may never get the answer to your question. Given a choice and influence of the developers, the hypothetical smack-down would find the trolley beating the cement pond by 3:2.

        • Pointer Outer

          No studies or links? Our resident self-righteous contrarian ain’t gonna like dat one bit. Not one bit

    • Dr_Klahn

      I’m building a force of extwardinawy magnitude… *shoots flame out of arm*

  • DeportEmAll

    42 million for a pool?

    Nonstarter.

    • Westover

      Too much cabbage.

      Why not be creative, put a new incremental tax on the properties around Long Bridge Park, and as their property values sky rocket due to the new park nearby, use that money to build the next phases.

      That is a much more progressive solution than just going back to your credit card that is already close to maxed out.

    • KalashniKEV

      +1

      I’d tell dude to go jump in a lake.

  • South Side Chris

    As a citizen of the county, I would go to this pool and enjoy myself.

    • Dr_K

      As a brah, I’ll bring a suitcase and join you!

      • WeiQiang

        You know who can really appreciate a suitcase? drax

  • Andy

    The pool seems kind of small, or at least narrow.

    • Julia

      Actually, this rendering just shows one of the proposed pools. It will feature four pools: “The program will include a 50-meter x 25-yard pool designed for recreational, fitness and competition aquatics. A family leisure and hot water therapy pool will complement the main pool. A free-form water play area that will appeal to a wide range of users will have a lazy river, slides, play features, and a zero-depth “beach” entry. A separate teaching pool will be able to accommodate recreational programming, therapy classes, and group exercise.” (From the County website: http://www.arlingtonva.us/Departments/ParksRecreation/forums/northtract/ParksRecreationForumsNorthtractNorthTractIndoor.aspx)

      • Andy

        Ah, thanks. This one pool seemed kinda small to be the whole center.

  • Anon

    The “revenue benefits to the county”?! Pul-eaze! Regardless of what one thinks about the pool, it’s not going to be an overall money-generator.

    • Wayne Kubicki

      Forget “revenue benefits”. Including debt service and operating deficits, the cost to taxpayers for this is around $7M per year – and that assumes that the County’s revenue and cost projections for the facility are accurate (see “Artisphere”).

      • Lee-n-Glebe

        So it’s projected to lose about the same as the trolley, except that the trolley will cost $250 million to build (if it stays on budget), and the pool debt will eventually amortize.

        • Mc

          The often cited $250 million trolley cost is for the whole thing including the parts in Fairfax County and also includes the Federal and state contributions. The net cost to the County of trolley is not much more than the $70 million the County will pay from bounds and diverted revenues for the swimming pool.

          • Andy

            I will bet you $70 M that the cost to the county will exceed $70 M. Capital projects, especially those undertaken by government, always cost way more than anyone ever anticipates. If we want a trolley, let’s save up for it, and when we have enough, we’ll buy one. Let’s stop this madness of spending money we don’t have.

      • Occasionally a fact

        That’s accurate for 3-4 years, until the $20 million in private funds from the sale of density is obtained. Then the net annual cost drops considerably. And the cost/revenue projects are very conservative. If the Board approves fees for pool and fitness activities similar to those in Fairfax, the cost recovery can be much better than the current figures suggest.

        • Wayne Kubicki

          The $20M in so-called “private funds” is highly speculative – it is to come from the county selling the excess density on the Long Bridge site to a developer to use elsewhere in the County. The value of that density is unknown – and I’d imagine the neighborhood that gets burdened with the extra density will not necessarily be appreciative.

          Query – what do you think the net annual cost drops to after the first four years?

          • More facts

            The $20 million is actually a conservative estimate of the density that is available for sale from the Long Bridge site. There is also a clear buyer for the density. It is also a gross misrepresentation to say that the cost to the tax payer will be $7 million per year, when we know that the cost will go down significantly after the sale of the density. As pointed out, Fairfax fully recovers its costs for many similar multi-use recreational/health/aquatics facilities. Arlington can do the same.

          • Wayne Kubicki

            Inquiring minds want to know:

            Who is the buyer for the density? Penn Place?

            Once (and if) the density is sold for $20M, how much will the annual cost decrease?

            When you refer to Fairfax’s cost recovery policies, FFX recovers operating costs, but NOT debt service, correct?

          • Lucifer

            You are absolutely correct. The Arlington planners have all this information and more.

          • Lucifer

            Wayne needs to gather his facts from more than the budget book. At least he has some facts rather than many of these posts which are rants.

  • John

    I fully support the creation of this pool. I wish that had included the Rec Center and 4th field component as well. If you haven’t been to Long Bridge it is a spectacular place to watch or play.

  • Bob

    If they build this pool I will pee in it.

    • emanon

      Better in the pool than on the trolley.

    • T:GEOA

      I’m gonna drop a Baby Ruth instead.

  • KalashniKEV

    EEEEEEew!!!

    Public Pool??????????

    GROSS!

  • Jim

    well… then those 2400 people can pay for the pool. but the vast majority of the county won’t use the facility.

    • cj

      The “vast majority of the county” doesn’t use any specific facility — be it a particular school, library, rec center, street, bus, trolley, whatever. The county provides a great variety of facilities and services to meet aggregate, overall needs. Taxpayers underwrite them also in the aggregate; we don’t get to allocate our tax dollars according to our personal druthers or needs.

      The aquatics and fitness facility is designed to respond to unmet recreation, sports and health needs identified in several surveys and community assessments. The 2400 petition signers are a diverse group, much like the larger number who will use some or all of the diverse features of the facility. And yes — the people who use it will underwrite much of the operating cost through memberships, rentals and user fees.

      • Wayne Kubicki

        :…underwrite much of the operating cost…” Perhaps.

        Cover any of the debt service? No.

      • Bender

        **The county provides a great variety of facilities and services to meet aggregate, overall needs.**

        In fact, there is absolutely no “need” for most of this stuff. Rather, the county provides a great variety of facilities and services to meet aggregate, overall WANTS.

        Most of it is “gimme, gimme, gimme,” all under the delusion that “public funds” are somehow free money. In short, greed for material things that you can compel someone to pay for.

  • Dr_Klahn

    As long as it includes a dog park and a sprayground where I can rinse off my shoes after, I’m all for it… (bonus if there’s a streetcar that can get me there, and double bonus if the streetcar allows dogs. Triple bonus if there’s a special car that has water bowls and dog treats. Throw in a Yappy Hour and my face will melt.)

    • Subsidy

      You left out the subsidized pay toilets…….

    • nom de guerre

      And the Sam’s Corner Food Truck….

  • Douglas Park Resident

    Given the growing population in Arlington, it is about time that Arlington County invested a major new “community” aquatics, recreational and fitness facility. We are the only county in the entire Washington Metropolitan area that currently has no such community facility. We have long waiting lists at the community neighborhood pools which seem to be impossible to get into unless you happen to be lucky and to live in the right neighborhood. Our neighborhood doesn’t have one! And the school pools are off limits for use by the community, including the growing senior population, during a majority of the daytime hours when school is in session. So, three cheers for the County Manager for including this project in the proposed capital improvements budget! I know my family will definitely use this new facility. I am sure many other families will as well.

    • EFC Observer

      Mr. Zimmerman, thank you for submitting a comment.

    • Swimmer

      Wakefield HS open hours are not that bad year round and it is in your ‘hood. School is out for the summer. Go enjoy it. Glad to know that the proposed aquatic center has a 50 meter pool. It’s about time. I’d rather pay taxes for this center than $1.5M for 1/2 mile bike trail along Wash. Blvd. The aquatics center will be used in fair and bad weather unlike a dedicated bike trail.

    • Lucifer

      DPR, you are right on. For all those folk who don’t have a private summer pool or go to Fairfax for year round swimming, this will be a long needed addition. For those of you who do not swim and want to opine without facts try swimming at W&L and/or Yorktown during public swim time. It is a zoo. Consider the triathletes and master swimmers, where do they go —- out of the County and pay hefty fees and travel long distances. Consider the young folk who may take a shine to swimming because of this pool and become an Olympian some day. There are no really competitive “club” teams in Arlington. These are the teams that nurture the up and coming stars. Consider that Curl Burke had multiple swimmers at the Olympic trials and some are in London now. How many from Arlington? Zip.

      As for the cost. Consider that all of us pay lots of taxes. If some of us want to swim, that is a great benefit for us. If some of our children, make swimming a success and turn athletics into a lifestyle, a college scholarship, a means to get into that special college, and have one more means to learn the discipline inherent in becoming a competitive swimmer and transfer this as a live skill; the pool is paid for many times over and my taxes are well spent. Then there is the therapeutic parts of this pool. Many of us who are older want to get a workout, but can’t do many things any more. When my father turned 80, he could no longer work in the field all day, so he took up swimming. He loved the exercise and camaraderie with young folk. Sorry, I believe you are being small minded to not see the multitude of benefits for this project.

  • Kevin Diffily

    I’d like to see some generic, large, and free pools open during the day to Arlington residents.

  • Elmer

    How to pay for this? Simple. $17,708.33 x 2400 signatures = 42.4 million dollars.
    Go for it folks. Put your money where your signature is.
    After that, you can pony up the $7 million in annual operating costs.
    Enjoy!

    • Elmer

      OK, The $7 million includes bond debt service and interest on interim borrowing as well as net operating costs, so you can back out some of that amount from the $7 million.

      Now, excuse me while I watch the 2400 reach for their checkbooks.

  • Arlingtonian

    I’m in favor of the aquatics center (which is not “just a pool”). Arlington is not a poor small town. It’s an affluent city (though it’s formally defined as a county) of 200,000 people. The population is much more active than most areas of the U.S. Even if the $7 million figure is accurate, that works out to about $35 per resident (but more per taxpayer).

    Plenty of County projects have more benefit for some individuals and groups than others, such as spending on schools, on road expansion, etc. Since when is it a requirement that every project have a direct benefit for every single resident? It should be enough that it benefits a very significant percentage of residents. I suspect that far more people than 2,400 will use the facilities, even residents of nearby jurisdictions. Those individuals would help to pay the costs of the facility. That’s fine by me.

    A quality facility can also attract major competitions, such as NCAA meets, national championships and Olympic trials. Each such event could bring in a significant amount of money. Of course that wouldn’t pay off the facility entirely, but it would help the County through increased spending on hotels, restaurants, taxis, car rentals and general retail. Those events also serve as advertising for Arlington as a tourist destination. While many here will scoff at that, many people around the country and the world do travel here to visit Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial and the Air Force Memorial. And many visitors to D.C. will stay in Arlington hotels.

    But all of that would just be a side benefit to the facility. The main purpose would be to enhance the quality of life for local residents. The center would provide another option for those who want to exercise and train, or who simply want to cool off in a splash pool over the summer. As noted above, there are limited options for Arlington residents who want to swim for exercise, when compared to other area jurisdictions.

    • Scofflaw

      I won’t scoff…maybe just a wee guffaw, or a harrumph!

    • Bender

      **that works out to about $35 per resident (but more per taxpayer)**

      Which is $35 more than anyone should have to involuntarily pay. Of course, since it is such a small amount, I’m sure that you won’t mind picking up my share of the tab.

  • Allison

    This pool sounds awesome! The Arlington area (pentagon city/crystal city/etc.) area is really in need of something like this. It will foster a more active community, create a place or adult swim clubs (as well as youth aquatic programs) can thrive and succeed. Many adults (myself included) would love to get back into the sport and this center would provide a venue for those that love to swim and value the workout, without having to live in an apartment complex that has a pool or join a pool that is a long drive away.
    PLEASE APPROVE THIS AQUATIC CENTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mc

    It’s absurd that a place to swim should cost $70 million. Maybe an Olympics gold medalists sees ‘revenue benefits’ (from Weaties endorsements) but by the time is paid off it will need to be torn up for being decrepit.

  • JnA

    Who would be major users of this facility? Boeing employees and contractors.

    • Art

      Why does it have to be so fancy? I’m sure an indoor pool could be built with a more utilitarian design at a fraction of the cost that isn’t the next architectural marvel, but people would have their aquatics facility and the county wouldn’t need to shell out 42 million over it. The going rate for cinder block is a lot cheaper than gigantic glass windows and you could still make it a class A facility.

      • Trank the Fank

        And articulated buses would work just as well, if not better, than a streetcar.

  • Kim Un Arl

    How can a hole filled with water cost $42 million?

    Seriously, does the County Board give a rat’s rearend about the cost for any project?

    I cannot recall the Board ever saying no to spending more money.

  • Arlingtonian

    Another insane project. The Board has never said no to anything.

    • ACDC Hack

      “The Board has never said no to anything”

      They say no every year to NOT increasing the tax burden on Arlington County residents !!!

  • East Falls Church Resident

    Wow, how many of you are so negative!
    Arlington is a great place to live because our standard of living is high, our salaries are competitive, our schools are effective but our recreational facilities are limited. All work and no play makes people stressed out, kids overweight, seniors isolated. I will be delighted to drive cross county to this facility that will offer me a place to exercise in a warm pool free of kids and swimmers. It will be a joy to parents who can’t afford a pricey neighborhood pool. It will definitely generate some revenue especially if the final phase is completed with the fitness equipment.
    Bring on the swim meets! Business will profit from this facility.

    • lry

      How many pools are enough? Is there even an accurate census of available swimming, spa, and therapy pools currently available in Arlington? If Boeing employees and Boeing contractors are going to be primary users of this aquatic center how about Boeing contributing?

  • Elmer

    “The County Board is scheduled to vote on Saturday (July 21) on four referenda to be included on the November 6 ballot. The Local Parks and Recreation referendum includes $42.5 million for the proposed aquatics center. That would cover a portion of the total cost, which is estimated at more than $70 million.”

    We can’t think of anything better or a need more deserving than to spend $70 million dollars on a huge swimming pool? Do we even know the difference between need and want? Or necessity versus nice to have?

  • Worse and Worse

    Aquatic Center + Playground = $81 million in the CIP as of yesterday’s County Board meeting. Another $100 outside the CIP for more playing fields, an expensive bridge, and indoor soccer, wherever the County Manager can find the money.

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