Arlington’s first free-standing aquatics center could open its doors in the next couple of months.
“The [Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center] will be opening this summer, but it’s too far out to give an exact month or day,” Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish tells ARLnow.
The approved Fiscal Year 2022 budget includes funding for the opening of the facility at 475 Long Bridge Drive, in Long Bridge Park, using $2 million of a nearly $10 million donation from Boeing, which has its D.C. area headquarters nearby. According to the budget, the center is slated to open in July.
As work draws to a close, project manager Erik Beach gave ARLnow a tour of the facility, which has a pool for competitive swimming and a family pool, a center with fitness equipment, and spaces for classes, parties and events.
“It’s a pretty incredible site,” he said.
Work began on the 92,000-square-foot swimming and recreation facility — the second of four phases to redevelop Long Bridge Park — three years ago. But the history of the controversial project goes back much farther.
Voters approved funding for the project in a 2012 bond referendum, but due to rising costs the recreation center was put on hold in 2014. Three years later, the County Board voted to award a construction contract and get started on the $60 million recreational center. The project broke ground in 2018.
One hallway “will have a timeline of the project’s development, since it had such a long, rich history, if you will,” Beach said.
The Boeing donation will not just cover operating costs. It will also make admission free for active duty military families in the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s service area. Families will have access to about 5,000 daily passes per year through a lottery system.
“We are grateful we can recognize the importance of our active-duty military families by providing them with a day of fun and fitness in our new, state-of-the-art facility,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said in a statement.
Jason Pak, the director of Boeing Global Engagement, said the company is proud to give members of the armed forces convenient access to the facility.
“The Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center will be critically important in not only providing support for the recovery and rehabilitation of service members but also promote general health and wellbeing for everyone in our community,” he said in a statement.
The community will have access to two pools. Competitive swimmers, water polo players and synchronized swimmers can use the 50-meter pool with diving towers, a whirlpool, and two moveable bulkheads (the starting platform for swimmers). Recreational swimmers can enjoy the family pool with a splash pad, a water slide, four 25-yard lap lanes, water volleyball and basketball areas and a lazy river.
On dry ground, the center has an 8,000-square-foot fitness center with cardio and fitness equipment, plus a studio for group classes. The facility also has three community rooms and two spaces for fitness classes, parties and gatherings.
The revamped Long Bridge Park includes more than 10 acres of new parkland for casual use, a new public art piece and outdoor space for festivals and special events.
“This is an area that can really exceed expectations,” Beach said.
Down the road, even more is proposed for the park, including an observation platform, an athletic field built atop an expanded parking lot, and an indoor athletic center featuring a climbing wall, squash courts and a multipurpose field.
From the county’s website:
Phase 3B will complete the outdoor park components of Long Bridge Park. A fourth full size, rectangular, lighted, synthetic grass athletic field will be constructed over the surface parking that was built in Phase 1. The current sloping sides of that lot will be cut back under the new field, expanding the lot to about 254 spaces. Lastly an elevated walkway will be extended from the overlook east across the adjacent railroad tracks to an observation platform to be built on County-owned property to the east of the tracks. The observation platform will have panoramic views of the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary and the Washington DC skyline and will provide opportunities for interpretation. The walkway and platform will be designed to harmonize with other park features and their surroundings. To protect sensitive plant and animal species in and along Roaches Run, the platform will be built in an environmentally sensitive manner and will not provide any public access to the ground.
Phase 4 will complete the Aquatics, Health & Fitness Facility by adding a large Multiple Activity Center (MAC) on the site of the Phase 2 surface parking lot. The heart of the MAC will be a large space that can accommodate indoor soccer, futsal, basketball, volleyball, tennis, and community events among other activities. Additional fitness space and group exercise rooms will be included. An elevated indoor walking/jogging trail will be constructed around the MAC. The Facility will also include racquetball and/or squash courts and a climbing wall. On the north end of the building, two meeting rooms with full views of the monumental skyline will be available for rental and events. Five hundred and forty seven (547) parking spaces for the Facility will be provided in an underground structure below the new addition. The Esplanade will be completed to its most northern reach and access to it will be extended around the indoor facility.