Submit Content

County Board Approves Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center Contract

The Arlington County Board voted 4-1 at its Tuesday meeting to build the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center, the first of its kind in the county.

The Board approved a construction contract worth $60 million with Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc., which was one of four finalists to propose a design for the center.

The new facility will have a 50-meter pool, diving towers and a family pool, as well as spaces for health and fitness and public events among others. The contractor can then add extra features from a “menu” of potential options, so long as it stays within budget.

“This is the culmination of 10-plus years of planning,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “As our transformation of a brownfield into a vibrant park is fulfilled, we should all be very proud that a long and sometimes challenging community process has yielded such a great outcome. The centerpiece of this project will be an attractive, energy-efficient aquatics and fitness facility that will serve our community for generations.”

Board member John Vihstadt voted against the project on the grounds that the county cannot afford the $60 million price tag and projected operating costs of more than $1.1 million a year.

He added that when voters approved funding in two bond referenda — 2004 and 2012 — the funding landscape was different, and the phrase “aquatics and fitness center” was not mentioned in one referendum.

“With an uncertain economic outlook and in the face of so many competing priorities, from schools to Metro, and more, I cannot in good conscience support moving forward with this $60 million project as proposed,” Vihstadt said. “[It] is simply not fiscally prudent to ask Arlington’s taxpayers to take on this new and costly capital project (at $60 million, over $10 million more than the budget for the new Reed Elementary School, by comparison).  In short, the County has more important needs and priorities.”

Construction on the new aquatics center could begin as early as July 2018 and is expected to wrap up by early 2021.

The project, as approved, will also include “development of 10.5 acres of the park, including environmental remediation, continuation of the Esplanade, public gathering areas and casual use space, one or more rain gardens, parking and other associated infrastructure.”

Vihstadt’s full statement about his “no” vote, after the jump.

After a great deal of consideration, I plan to vote No on the Manager’s recommendation to award a contract for construction of the new Long Bridge Park Olympic aquatics and fitness center.

Since the original plan was halted in 2014 due to massive cost overruns, this project has been scaled back in price and scope. The procurement process has been reformed. The voters approved funding in two park bond issues–in 2004 and 2012–though no specific project price tag was referenced. In one of the bonds, the phrase “aquatics and fitness center” is not even mentioned.   Who can vote against “local parks and recreation”? Yet, times and circumstances change, and Arlington must adapt.

With an uncertain economic outlook and in the face of so many competing priorities, from schools to Metro, and more, I cannot in good conscience support moving forward with this $60 million project as proposed.

If we were considering a more modest, truly community-only pool, I would be open to it.  But that’s not this proposal.

What are my concerns?

First, I am mindful that the aquatics community and many others have been looking forward to this project for a long time. The community engagement process has spanned many years. But, while there may have been a time when we could have afforded this project with relative ease, this is no longer the case.

With schools still growing at the rough equivalent of a new elementary school each year, and our essential but ailing Metro system desperate for more funding, Arlington raised the property tax rate by 1.5 cents this spring. The pressure will be intense to raise property taxes again next year. Rising assessments alone will mean that homeowners will pay hundreds of dollars more per year just for a level services, maintenance-of-effort budget.

And the prospect of federal tax reform and budget cutbacks from Washington adds even more uncertainty. It is simply not fiscally prudent to ask Arlington’s taxpayers to take on this new and costly capital project (at $60 million, over $10 million more than the budget for the new Reed Elementary School, by comparison). In short, the County has more important needs and priorities.

Second, the Manager projects annual net operating costs after revenue of something north of $1.1 million per year. This is a highly speculative, yet consequential figure, before any real numbers have been run.

Our effort to approach nearby Alexandria for an operational partnership was rebuffed  Just months later, Alexandria opted not to go forward with an upgrade and expansion of their own swimming complex due to rising costs. The County Manager’s aggressive efforts to secure partnerships with area colleges and universities came up dry. And attempts to broker sponsorships and naming rights with the private sector have yielded nothing.

Meanwhile, St. James, a major private investment group, has already broken ground for a giant multi-activity athletic and sports complex just down the road in Springfield, including an Olympic-sized pool and diving tower. It will open before Long Bridge. How will that impact the County’s projected annual operating subsidy? There are many unanswered questions.

Finally, the Manager has confirmed that the Board could direct the reprogramming of approved bond monies to other park and recreation priorities such as land acquisition and capital improvements to any number of our 167 parks and 97 athletic fields across Arlington. The County could also help fund a pool at a new South Arlington high school that we are likely to need.

A beneficial byproduct of this would be to help hold down County debt service costs for our bonded indebtedness, which are already rising perilously close to our 10% limit. We know that the 2018 Schools Bond and Metro Bond will be sizable.

Let’s move forward with the build-out of the natural areas of Long Bridge Park itself, but the right priority is to reprogram the Olympic pool and fitness center funds in a more equitable and broad-based fashion.

Recent Stories

An Arlington County police officer has been arrested and charged with seriously injuring a woman while off duty.

The Arlington-based mobile app Sandboxx plans to roll out a new chatroom feature for military recruits and their families, in an attempt to increase communication and minimize dropouts.

Arlington is now setting up appointment-only clinics to vaccinate against monkeypox as cases continue to rise across the region. The Virginia Department of Health has expanded access to the monkeypox…

Being a small business owner is tough and sometimes, for any number of reasons, you need to sell what you’ve built. Even a large and affluent market like Arlington is…

“Probing the highly imaginative, inspired mind of Teresa Oaxaca is not altogether unlike having a present-day conversation with an Old Master,” says Nashville Arts Magazine.

Here is an unusual opportunity to learn from this incredibly talented and accessible artist, at Art House 7’s two-day oil painting workshop in October. Teresa will give 2 portrait painting demonstrations for 3 hours each morning. Students will then be painting from a clothed live model. Teresa will offer individual critiques that focus on materials, techniques, process and artistic vision. You’ll get jazzed up about painting and become more confident about your abilities.

Art House 7, Two-Day Oil Painting Workshop with Teresa Oaxaca. Saturday, October 22 and Sunday, October 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. EDT $250.

See more about Teresa Oaxaca here. Art House 7 5537 Langston Blvd., Arlington, Va. 22207

Submit your own Community Post here.

Validating one’s emotions has the power to heal, transform, and empower. What Is Validation? Every human being has feelings. We all have emotions that change over time, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. The question isn’t whether we feel; it’s how we handle feelings once they arise.

Building strategies to understand emotions is essential to positive mental health, and validation is one effective skill to practice.

Emotional validation is the process of understanding, embracing, and actively listening to another person’s feelings (or your own).

Understanding someone’s emotions doesn’t necessarily mean you approve of how they are feeling or reacting to something. You can be supportive in acknowledging and validating an emotional experience without agreeing or diminishing it. Validation is a skill to learn and improve over time. It may take practice, but the effort is most certainly worth it. Emotional validation has the power to enhance interpersonal communication and foster strong relationships.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

ACFCU’s Homebuying Happy Hour

Are you ready to buy your first home, but concerned about saving for a down payment? Grab a drink and join us for 45 minutes to learn more about how you can buy your first house with 3%, 5%, or

Azure Dream Day Spa Grand Opening

Azure Dream Day Spa is hosting their Grand Opening Celebration at their beautiful new spa located at 901 N. Quincy St. on Friday, August 12 from 5-9 p.m.

All are invited to come tour the new spa and to take


Subscribe to our mailing list