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The long-planned and long-debated Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center is set to open this summer, perhaps as early as July.

The $60 million facility, construction of which was approved in 2017, is located north of Crystal City and south of the 14th Street Bridge, offering monumental views across the Potomac. It features a 50-meter competition pool with diving towers, a whirlpool, a family pool with a splash pad, a water slide, water volleyball and basketball areas, and a lazy river — in addition to an 8,000-square-foot fitness center and rooms for for classes, parties and events.

A multi-million-dollar donation from Boeing will help cover the facility’s operating costs, and will also make admission free for local, active duty military families, in return for naming rights to the 50-meter pool and the park’s existing outdoor fields.

In the years-long discussion about the merits of the aquatics center, prior to it being built, there was some debate over how much of a local need it was filling, at a relatively high cost. Will it be something mostly used by Speedo-clad swimming enthusiasts, or will it be widely used by the community, particularly during cold weather months when recreation options are limited?

With the aquatics center close to opening, let’s revisit that question. Do you plan on checking out the facility at some point this year, after it opens?

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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.

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The indoor public pools at Washington-Liberty and Yorktown high schools reopened on Saturday.

Arlington Public Schools announced Friday afternoon that the pools would be reopening under the state’s Phase 3 guidelines. The Wakefield High School pool “will remain closed for a few more weeks” due to major maintenance work, APS said.

Those who want to use the pools are required to make a reservation for a 45-minute window.

More from an APS email to parents:

The two pools will open under the Virginia Forward Phase III guidelines, which include diminished capacity, physical distancing of 10 feet and the requirement of a health and temperature screening for all staff and patrons. We have posted many of the details on our website and will continue to do so over the next 24 hours. Use this link to learn more and stay informed.

Patrons will need to purchase admission and make a reservation for a 45-min swim or water exercise/jog session. You will need to set up an account on our Self-Service Portal. You will receive a separate email this evening inviting you to join the APS Aquatics Self-Service Portal. Follow the instructions on the email to set up your account. […]

The reservations will open at 8 a.m. on the previous day (On Friday at 8 a.m. you will be able to register for Saturday sessions). They will first go live tomorrow morning. Instruction on registering are available at Making a Reservation. This section also includes information about what to expect when you get to the pool, while you swim and after you are done. Patrons will be checked in, directed to the locker rooms to shower before swimming and out to the deck to a designated Blue or Red lanes. After you swim, you may choose to exit directly off the deck or enter the Unisex Room to change out of your swimming gear and shower. If you have any questions or need assistance navigating the portal or the registration page, please call 703-228-6264 or 703-228-6263. […]

Regretfully, The Wakefield pool will remain closed for a few more weeks. APS is performing major maintenance in the entire building ahead of the start of the school year. We recognize this is disappointing to our Wakefield patrons, but it is imperative that this work be completed. We anticipate opening around August 24. […]

The APS Aquatics team is excited to be back at the pools and ready to welcome you back.  Staff will be learning how to navigate this new way of serving you and the success of our re-opening depends greatly on your willingness to follow the guidelines and on your patience. Our primary concern remains your safety both in the water and in the building.

We very much look forward to seeing you on Saturday at Washington-Liberty and Yorktown Pools. It has been a long 4-months on dry land.

Arlington County does not have outdoor public pools, but is home to several private swim clubs. The county government itself does not currently operate any public pools, but that will change when the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center opens. The opening of the aquatics center, however, has been delayed at least a year due to the pandemic and budget issues.

File photo

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Crews are now starting work on the walls for the long-awaited, long-debated Long Bridge Aquatics and Center near Crystal City.

Arlington County tweeted that the final beam was lifted into place last week for the controversial $60 million recreational center at 475 Long Bridge Drive. Officials say the next steps will be setting up walls and pouring pool foundations.

“The building’s structural steel work is nearing completion and concrete for the 50-meter pool is being formed and poured,” Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.

The final design includes a 50-meter pool with diving towers, as well as a family pool and public fitness space — and $410,000 video screens.

Arlington officials have already budgeted for two full-time staffers to run the facility once it opens.

Kalish also confirmed that last year’s record-breaking rain did not interfere with the construction timetable — even if it did dampen the groundbreaking ceremony.

“Weather has not had any effect on the schedule,” she said. The wet weather reportedly delayed construction projects across the region.

The aquatics center is expected to open at the beginning of 2021, and officials hope it will serve everyone from middle schoolers to competitive swimmers who currently train at the high school pools.

Image (below) via Twitter/Arlington County

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A $17.2 million overhaul of the Boundary Channel Drive interchange along I-395 is in the works.

Plans call for overhauling the existing, difficult-to-navigate interchange near the Pentagon and Crystal City with two rotaries, to be installed on either side of I-395.

The 150 and 160-foot wide rotaries aim to merge traffic from Boundary Channel Drive and the Pentagon Access Road on the left, and the Boundary Channel and Long Bridge Drive on the right. The project would remove I-395’s two southbound loop ramp, and add a new multi-use trail, shared by cyclists and pedestrians, connecting the Mt. Vernon Trail to Long Bridge Park.

The project will be managed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and is expected to cost around $17 million.

The Arlington County Board will review an agreement for the project during its upcoming meeting this Saturday. As of Tuesday, the project was featured on the Board’s consent agenda, a place usually reserved for items expected to pass without debate.

Officials hope the redesign will better connect to the long awaited Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center and better serve area commuters, as staff noted in a report to the Board:

The Interchange serves the Pentagon (five million square foot office building with 25,000 employees), Pentagon City (12.7 million square feet of office, 2.3 million square feet of retail and over 13,000 residential units), Crystal City, Long Bridge Park plus its future park expansion and the future Aquatics & Fitness Center, which is expected to draw regional visitors from Maryland and the District of Columbia, as well as from the areas south and west of Arlington in Virginia. The existing interchange design is dated and will need to be redesigned to better serve the transportation needs of the existing and future land uses in the area.

The county held public meetings to showcase the designs in 2015, during which staff noted feedback “varied greatly.” The points staff said residents agreed on included:

  • There needs to be fewer ramps onto I-395
  • Rotary islands need to be designed to not allow cars to speed
  • Pedestrian crossings need to be designed to reduce conflicts with cars and bicycles

County staff also noted that plan for the trail meets goals set by the newly-upgraded bike element of the Arlington County Master Transportation Plan to make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to use the Mt. Vernon Trail.

“The Mount Vernon Trail connection is an extremely critical part of the project and will create a much-needed link between Long Bridge Park and the trail,” the staff report said.

Image 3 via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Chamber Rallying Members to Support Amazon — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure supporters of Amazon’s decision to locate in Crystal City aren’t caught napping. The business organization on March 4 sent out a missive to rally the troops in the days leading up to the County Board’s expected action on an economic-incentive package.” [InsideNova]

Local Bars Helping Women in Unsafe Situations — “Something from the United Kingdom’s bar scene is coming all the way across the pond to Arlington, Virginia — but it isn’t a new beer or liquor. Several bars in Arlington County have implemented the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign, which aims to help women and anyone in an uncomfortable or threatening situation get help.” [NBC Washington]

Panel Recommends Aquatics Center Fees — “Fees ranging from $9 for a one-day entrance to $630 for an annual pass have been proposed for the future Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center. But the fee schedule, developed by a task force set up by county leaders, leaves undetermined, for now, how much of a subsidy taxpayers will need to provide for the Crystal City facility’s operation.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Tim Brown

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County Board member John Vihstadt is renewing his push to delay the construction of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center.

Vihstadt is waging a lonely battle against the oft-postponed project as the county’s budget picture grows increasingly grim. He says the $60 million the county’s set to spend on the new pool would be better spent on building new schools or buying additional park land, particularly considering that Arlington is feeling a financial squeeze at the moment.

Between sending more money to Metro and declining commercial tax revenues, the County Board is facing some challenging headwinds as it nears a final decision this weekend on a new, 10-year plan for construction spending. Vihstadt, the Board’s lone independent who is running for re-election this fall, thinks the 72,000-square-foot pool complex can wait a bit longer.

The project’s skyrocketing costs have convinced the Board to repeatedly adjust its plans it over the years, and Vihstadt made an effort to drive down its cost a key plank of his 2014 bid for office. But he still feels that even the facility’s reduced cost is too much for Arlington to take on right now.

“Times change, circumstances change, and I just don’t think it’s right to go forward on that project,” Vihstadt told ARLnow. “Schools have a higher priority. Parks have a higher priority.”

Yet, just as when he cast the lone vote against the project’s construction last December, Vihstadt appears to be in the minority on that position. His four colleagues on the Board all told ARLnow that they wouldn’t support any effort to postpone the Long Bridge project, even with the county’s money troubles in mind.

“Raising these issues when he first ran for election was an important contribution, because it shifted that narrative to value engineering,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “That success is something John ought to feel he positively contributed to. Now, it’s the responsibility of the rest of us to follow through.”

The pro-pool Board members all point out that the project has been in the works for decades, with the community formally signing off on money for the aquatics center as part of a bond referendum back in 2004, and would fill a void for such a facility in the Crystal City area.

But they also stress that the process of unwinding the work the county’s already done would be so costly as to make the effort pointless. County Manager Mark Schwartz believes that cancelling the county’s existing contract to build the facility would prompt extensive litigation, with financial consequences to follow.

“We cannot simply break the contract,” Board member Libby Garvey wrote in an email. “Likely there would be real financial penalties for us if we did, to say nothing of the damage to our reputation among builders. Companies bidding on our projects in the future would likely add extra cost because we could not be trusted to fulfill our contracts.”

The aquatic center’s proponents also see any move to reverse the Long Bridge decision as one that would send the wrong message to the community, or as an effort to “re-litigate the past,” as Board member Erik Gutshall puts it.

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Morning Notes

Fight Over Aquatics Center Operation Costs — Local budget hawks are worried that operating costs of the new Long Bridge Aquatics Center may take a chunk out of the county budget. The current staff estimate is about $1 million per year of net taxpayer support for operating costs, with a caveat that there may be a ramp-up period with less revenue and thus net higher costs. [InsideNova]

Arlington Honors ‘Fast Four’ Companies — Arlington County on Wednesday honored the fastest-growing local companies in four revenue categories. The companies honored were: Courthouse-based Mind Body Health, digital marketing company Knucklepuck, Ballston-based Deep Learning Analytics and another Ballston tech-oriented company, Apogee Research. [Arlington County]

Eastern Foundry Expanding Again — Arlington-based startup incubator Eastern Foundry is working with investors to launch Global Foundry, which will “provide international companies entrée to U.S. commercial and government markets, while exposing potential American customers to the innovation taking place overseas.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Eric

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The county soon will let the public see its four design concept finalists for the new Long Bridge Park Aquatic and Fitness Center and park expansion.

The designs will be unveiled at an event on Thursday, Oct. 19 from 7-10 p.m. at 2011 Crystal Drive, on the 11th floor.

Visitors can watch presentations, ask questions and give feedback about the concepts. Refreshments will be served and free underground parking is available.

Anyone who can’t attend the unveiling event can give feedback online or at Courthouse Plaza (2100 Clarendon Blvd.) from Oct. 19-27.

Earlier this year, the county announced it would move forward with the $63+ million aquatic center and park expansion project after years of delays, which were largely caused by cost concerns. Phase one of the Long Bridge Park project was completed in 2011.

Disclosure: Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation is an ARLnow.com advertiser

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Morning Notes

Free Donuts Today — Today, June 2, is National Donut Day. To celebrate, Dunkin’ Donuts and Duck Donuts are offering a free donut with the purchase of any beverage. Sugar Shack is offering a free donut for those who wear a Sugar Shack hat, t-shirt or other article of clothing with the company logo. [Dunkin’ Donuts, Duck Donuts, Facebook]

Stabbing on Columbia Pike — Arlington County Police are investigating a stabbing that occurred near the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Rolfe Street early this morning. The victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries. [Fox 5, WJLA, ACPD]

Owner Wants Out of Ray’s Hell Burger Lease — Michael Landrum, owner of Ray’s the Steaks and Ray’s Hell Burger, wants out of the Hell Burger lease at 1650 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. The restaurant closed and went on “hiatus” last month. Landrum’s company owes the landlord just over $300,000, according to a bankruptcy filing. [Washington Business Journal]

Why Arlington and Alexandria Couldn’t Collaborate on a Pool — Sharing the costs of an indoor aquatics center seemed like a good idea in theory, but ultimately those in Alexandria did not like the idea of using their taxpayer dollars to build a pool in Arlington. Now Arlington’s planned Long Bridge aquatics center is moving forward while Alexandria’s plans to build an indoor pool are on hold. [Washington Post]

New Tenants to the Rescue in Courthouse — “Adding Reston-based VideoBlocks to its tenant roster was a good get for the owners of Courthouse Tower, but as it turns out, the lease was part of a larger plan to avoid letting about three quarters of the building’s office space go dark.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro ‘Prepares for Life After SafeTrack’ — We’re a day and a half into June and there have been no major Metro service disruptions so far, something the transit agency hopes is the norm. From a press release: “As the yearlong SafeTrack program winds down, Metro is preparing for a new era of less disruptive preventive maintenance and planned capital work to ensure that the rail system remains in a reliable state for years to come.” [WMATA]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Vihstadt Wants Ads Atop Aquatics Center — County government could raise some extra money by placing corporate logos atop the future Long Bridge Park aquatics center, which could be seen by those flying in and out of Reagan National Airport, says County Board member John Vihstadt. He is also pushing the idea of ads on ART buses, transit stops and Capital Bikeshare stations. [InsideNova]

Pupatella Named Best Pizza in Va. — The expanding Pupatella Pizza has been named the best pizza in Virginia again, this time by USA Today. The Bluemont pizzeria will celebrate its seventh anniversary on Saturday. [USA Today]

Plaudits for The Bartlett — The Bartlett, an amenity-filled, 699-unit apartment tower in Pentagon City, has been named the year’s best residential project by the Washington Business Journal. The building, the design of which was “inspired by buildings in New York City,” leased up so quickly that plans for a “pop-up hotel” utilizing vacant units had to be pulled back. [Washington Business Journal]

Pebley Recognized for Civic Leadership — Jim Pebley was honored with a resolution of thanks from the Arlington County Republican Committee this past Wednesday. Pebley, who never ran for office but has a long resume of civic service in Arlington, is retiring to North Carolina this summer. “It is safe to say Jim Pebley is one of the most active citizens in Arlington, and has been for decades,” said one well-wisher. “[He is] extremely well-respected across the political spectrum.” [InsideNova]

Condo Resident Opposes VRE Expansion — In a WaPo op-ed, a condo resident who lives next to the VRE station in Crystal City says he opposes the planned expansion of the station because it will “will mar our precious green space” and “derail the lives of Crystal City residents through more noise and possible destruction of property during station construction.” [Washington Post]

Nearby: Threats to Falls Church Abortion Clinic — A building housing an abortion clinic in Falls Church was evacuated twice yesterday due to perceived threats. In the first instance, someone set off fireworks in the building’s elevator; in the second, someone stamped the word “bomb” on pieces of paper found near the rear entrance. An Arlington County Police K-9 unit assisted with the investigation “because F.C. police’s own K-9 unit is still in training.” [Falls Church News-Press, DCist]

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