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Fairgoers get food, drinks and treats from vendors at the county fair (staff photo)

The board of the Arlington County Fair has its sights set on moving the annual event to Long Bridge Park.

But many residents who’ve weighed in say they’d rather see it stay at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds.

This potential relocation has been under consideration since at last year, when the fair board first notified the county of its interest in the park, home to the recently finished aquatics center. Last fall, the county convened a committee to study whether Long Bridge Park or six other locations could meet the fair’s needs.

In all, committee members considered Thomas Jefferson, Long Bridge Park, Quincy Park, Virginia Highlands Park, the county’s large surface parking lot in Courthouse, Drew Elementary School and Gunston and Kenmore middle schools. The fair board, meanwhile, has only expressed interest in Long Bridge Park.

“The work of the site review committee was just exploratory,” Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said. “While the Fair asked to move to Long Bridge, we wanted to see what all the options were on public land.”

Arlington County Fair leaders did not respond to requests for comment about the decision to move, the location it has chosen and whether it considered other locations.

Earlier this year, Kalish said the fair’s current location or Long Bridge Park — but not inside the aquatics facility — were the most feasible options in terms of location size, parking and community impact.

Here’s how a few options stack up to the preferred alternatives, per an internal planning document shared with ARLnow.

At 20 acres, Virginia Highlands Park could accommodate all the rides, games, vendors and competitive exhibits outdoors, and it would have auxiliary parking at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and space for storage and performers at the Aurora Hills Community Center. In addition to Long Bridge Park and Thomas Jefferson, this park was the only additional location that came recommended by DPR.

Centrally located in Virginia Square, Quincy Park has four acres of park space, is well-served by transit and backs up to — and could make use of — Washington-Liberty High School and Central Library facilities for competitive exhibits, performer changing areas and storage. Like Virginia Highlands Park, Quincy Park is easily Metro-accessible and adjacent to a major commercial corricor.

Committee members also noted that Kenmore — near the county’s western border, along Route 50 — would be a “good alternative to TJ” because of its similar size and layout.

But after walking through each site’s amenities, the committee noted the following reasons the other locations may not work.

Quincy Park “will get pushback from W-L [High School] — it will be hard to access the facilities the last couple weeks of August,” before school starts, the planning document notes.

Additionally, the fair would have to “work with Libraries to use their indoor space and parking” for the weekend, it says.

Meanwhile, members said Virginia Highlands is “difficult for emergency resource[s] to get access,” despite being adjacent to a fire station, and noted that the park itself only has 60 parking spaces, though the expansive mall parking garage is across the street.

Located near the Fairfax County border, Kenmore is less accessible, the committee noted. It would cause traffic issues on S. Carlin Springs Road and comes with security concerns, as there’s woods nearby, members said.

Having narrowed down the options to Thomas Jefferson and Long Bridge as the preferred options, Arlington County and the fair board are still reviewing feedback from the community engagement earlier this year, Kalish said.

An online feedback form generated more than 1,500 responses “that yielded a lot of interest in the [current] Thomas Jefferson Park and Community Center location,” she added.

“This information will help inform the location decision, with the final decision also considering the needs of the Arlington County Fair Board, public safety and the Fair’s impact to the community at large,” she said.

DPR should have more information after mid-November, she said.

“Once the Fair gets back to us we can dig deeper into the options for more data to support a thoughtful determination,” she said.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Has High Kid Vax Rate — “Virginia schools have about 420,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15, and about 63 percent of them have received at least one shot, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said during a news conference Monday. But vaccinations are not evenly spread: Alexandria has the highest vaccination rate for children in the state, at 98.5 percent, followed by 92 percent in Arlington.” [Washington Post]

Film Crew at DCA Today — “No parking except film crew” signs near Long Bridge Park are in place for some sort of a documentary that’s being filmed at National Airport, Arlington’s film office coordinator tells ARLnow. [Twitter]

Man Throws Drink at Honking Driver — “At approximately 8:41 p.m. on September 25, police were dispatched to the report of an assault just occurred. A lookout was broadcast and officers located the suspect in the 3500 block of Columbia Pike. The investigation determined that the victim was driving in the area when the male suspect, who was on foot, blocked his passage. The victim honked his horn to alert the suspect and as he was driving past, the suspect threw a beverage through the window, striking the victim in the head. The victim declined medical treatment and sustained minor injuries.” [ACPD]

County Reluctant to Loosen Lifeguard Rules — “It was a problem felt across Northern Virginia all summer – a lack of available lifeguards to keep watch over community pools. But should local governments provide exemptions for some pools to help alleviate a similar crisis next year? [Arlington] seems very hesitant.” [Sun Gazette]

Marymount Grad Wins Design Competition — “Tran Truong is a talent to be reckoned with in the design world. For the second consecutive year, the 26-year-old Marymount University student (now alumna) in May took top honors in a national competition hosted by the visual merchandising company WindowsWear. This year’s challenge: Design a store concept for the 40th anniversary of fashion label Michael Kors with an eye toward sustainability and social change.” [Arlington Magazine]

Photo courtesy Anthony Russo

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Morning Notes

Tesla Dealership Coming to S. Glebe Road — ARLnow’s scoop from February is all but confirmed: “Tesla Inc. appears to be filling the high-end auto dealership void left by Maserati’s closure in South Arlington. The electric automaker will convert the former Maserati and Alfa Romeo dealership at 2710 S. Glebe Road into a 63,854-square-foot auto sales, delivery and vehicle service center, per plans obtained from Construction Journal. The work is expected to be fairly quick, starting in November and finishing up by January.” [Washington Business Journal]

Long Bridge Concert Tomorrow — “Join us, along with Arlington Parks & Recreation, Saturday, September 25 for the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center Community Celebration featuring a festive fall beer garden and live entertainment including Virginia native and HOT 99.5 Rising Artist Winner, Jerel Crockett beginning at 5 PM. The night will include a diverse lineup of some of the DMV’s hottest DJs, Farrah Flosscett and King Iven, as well as the rock/pop/funk band, Up All Night, playing all your favorite songs from the 80s, 90s, and today.” [National Landing]

Big Crash on GW Parkway — “A reader sends this photo of the earlier crash on the GW Parkway, near Key Bridge, in case anybody drives by later and wonders what happened to the wall.” [Twitter, Twitter]

The End is Near for an Old Home — “A demolition permit has been granted the owner of the 130-year-old Fellows-McGrath home at Washington Blvd. near Sycamore St. It’s disappointing to Tom Dickinson and other preservation activists who had filed an application to protect it… Manassas realtor Masum Kahn, who bought the house after eight months on the market to build modern homes, has not set a demolition schedule. Though he would consider selling ‘for the right price.'” [Falls Church News-Press]

Caps Player Honored by ACFD — “Earlier this month the ACFD presented @Capitals @GarnetHathaway with a citizens award for his charity known as #HathsHeroes. This charity has given so much to local first responders and we are extremely thankful to Mr. Hathaway for his work in the community.” [Twitter]

Oddity of Arlington Transit History — “The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is a famous example of early transit-oriented development because of the Orange Line, but the area was home to an innovative transit experiment long before Metro. From 1936 through 1939, a streetcar-bus hybrid provided service from the City of Fairfax to Rosslyn and into DC.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Arrest in Seven Corners Sex Assault Case — “Patrick Michael Chaloupka, 38, of Woodbridge has been charged with additional felonies for another sexual assault that occurred at a Falls Church hotel. Officers responded to a hotel on Aug. 26 in the 6100 block of Arlington Boulevard for the report of an assault that occurred three days prior.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

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Arlington County public works staff tested out their snow-plowing, water main-fixing skills — and equipment — during a “roadeo” yesterday (Thursday) at Long Bridge Park.

About 75-100 Water, Sewer, Streets Bureau staff participated as either contestants or judges, Department of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin said. The first equipment “roadeo” in recent years was 2014, although the county used to hold the event in the past, he added.

Contestants demonstrated their ability to navigate Bobcats and snowplows around traffic cones and their precision when maneuvering a backhoe, or digger. This involved guiding a hook attached to the digger through a small metal loop.

Water works crews tested out their ability to assemble water meters in “Meter Madness” and respond to water main breaks in “Rapid Tappin.” This year featured an all-female pipe-tapping team, Golkin said.

Winners of the backhoe and snow plow contests will represent Arlington at a “roadeo” hosted by the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the American Public Works Association next spring. Winners of the water events will compete at the Virginia Section American Water Works Association regional competition on Oct. 5-6.

This video of the 2019 “roadeo,” shot by staff photographer Jay Westcott, gives a closer look at the skills on display during the annual event.

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Ferris wheel at the county fair (staff photo)

Fairgoers last week may have noticed a sign asking for their input on the best location for the Arlington County Fair.

That’s because after holding the event at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds at 3501 2nd Street S. for 45 years, the fair’s leaders are pondering a change of scenery.

The Arlington County Fair Board, an independent non-profit which manages the fair, has informed the county that it would like to move the fair to Long Bridge Park (475 Long Bridge Drive), Becky Schmitt, the acting deputy director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, tells ARLnow.

“As such an iconic event, a Site Review Committee comprised of subject matter experts from the Special Events Committee reviewed eight possible sites for the County Fair, including the fair’s current location and Long Bridge,” she said. “The most feasible options based on 21 event needs, such as location size, parking, and community impact, were to either remain at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and Park or move to Long Bridge Park (not inside the aquatics facility).”

The long-time location at the community center gives the fair a large grassy area next to an indoor community center space that’s used for exhibitions. This year, the grounds became muddy and rutted due to persistent rain.

Fixing damage to the field after the fair has been a frequent problem for the county, we’re told. The field is also used by nearby Alice West Fleet Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

The community center’s suburban location, meanwhile, is fairly central — near the middle of the county — but lacks Metro accessibility and has limited parking.

Long Bridge Park is not as centrally-located, but would offer more transit options, ample parking nearby, and sweeping views of D.C., the river and the airport — particularly from the ferris wheel, assuming it would be allowed within the DCA flightpath. The location might also draw more visitors from outside of Arlington, helping to bolster the fair’s finances.

Long Bridge Park (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

The fair’s board and the Special Events Committee are soliciting community feedback, Schmitt said. Representatives from the fair could not be reached for comment.

At the fair, people were able to submit their feedback on a slip of paper in a dropbox. Post-fair, people can fill out an online survey asking whether and why they would prefer the fair to remain at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and Park or move to Long Bridge Park, or to another alternative location.

The survey also asks participants to check their top three considerations for choosing a site: such as adequate space, access to public transportation, location, impact on the neighborhood, parking availability, room to grow and access to indoor options.

So far, Schmitt said feedback has not yet been reviewed, but that it will figure into the final decision.

“Community feedback will help inform where the County Fair is held; however, the final decision will also consider the needs of the Arlington County Fair Board, public safety and the Fair’s impact to the community at large,” she said.

Dana Munro contributed to this report

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Fitness buffs, lap swimmers, curious residents and families with kids could be seen trickling into the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center this morning (Monday), on the opening day of the new facility.

A 12-year-old girl from Dorothy Hamm Middle School was the first to jump into the water, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish.

Later, when an ARLnow reporter visited the facility, a five-year-old boy could be heard wondering how tall the diving boards were, while a handful of adults worked out upstairs in an 8,000-square-foot fitness center. More families showed up later in the morning.

The county put $2 million in donations from Boeing toward opening the center at 475 Long Bridge Drive this summer. At one point, a July opening seemed possible, but delays pushed the date back to August.

Four years after the project was approved, the 92,000-square-foot swimming and recreation facility — the second of four phases to redevelop Long Bridge Park — is officially open. It boasts a pool for serious swimmers and one for recreational swimmers, with numerous community amenities, from spas to community rooms.

“We have a full certificate of occupancy, but there is still a punch list” of tasks to complete before the center is fully done, said Peter Lusk, the athletic and facilities services division chief for the county.

Kalish said the parks department will transfer many of its swimming programs to the center, which “will help the community a lot,” as pre-pandemic, swimming classes hosted at pools in Arlington Public Schools filled up quickly.

Parks department classes are due to restart in mid-September, “the first time in 17 months,” Lusk said.

Competitive swimmers, water polo players and synchronized swimmers can use a 79-degree pool that can be configured for either 25-yard laps or 50-meter ones, using moveable starting platforms. There’s also an area for spectators upstairs.

Some younger recreational swimmers will remain at local school pools, as parents expressed concerns about travel times to Long Bridge Park.

The Aquatics Center “will be the home of the Arlington Aquatic Club,” Kalish said, referencing the county-run competitive swim program that helped to train Olympic medalist Torri Huske. “Younger ones will swim in school pool closer to home.”

Recreational swimmers can use a family pool with a splash pad, a water slide, four 25-yard lap lanes, a lazy river and a spa. The pool is 83-84 degrees for tots, seniors, and those doing therapeutic water activities. The lap lanes can be used for water volleyball and basketball, which Kalish said the department is “hoping this will be a draw for millenials.”

Nearby, “wet” meeting rooms can be used classes and for birthday parties.

Kalish shared grand visions for bringing out the community, from hosting big swim meets and using a large screen for movie nights, renting out open spaces and turning part of the facility’s new parking lot into farmer’s markets and wine tastings.

Prices for passes range by age group, and reductions are available to income-eligible residents. Daily admission ranges from $5-9 per person or $25 for families, and an annual pass ranges from $350-630 per person or $1,750 for families.

Boeing, for whom one pool is named, is making about 5,000 daily passes available to active duty military families in the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s service area for free through a lottery system.

The project has been in the works for nearly a decade, attracting some controversy along the way.

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Morning Notes

Opening Date Set for Aquatics Center — The new Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center will open on Monday, Aug. 23, the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation announced yesterday. [Twitter]

Local Org Resettling Afghan Refugees — “Besides Lutheran Social Services, the [Arlington-based] Ethiopian Community Development Council, the International Rescue Committee, and Catholic Charities do a lot of work to resettle Afghan [Special Immigrant Visa] holders in this area. Christy McCaw of African Community Center DC  Metro, the ECDC’s resettlement branch, says her organization needs leads on apartments that will rent to newcomers without proof of income.” [Washingtonian]

Broken Water Main Causes Pressure Problems — From the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services yesterday: “A crew is stabilizing a broken water main that has caused pressure issues in the vicinity of Campbell Elementary School along S. Carlin Springs Road. Pressure should be returning to normal within the hour. Traffic diverted around work site. The break is on a 20-inch main. Greatest impact of pressure loss along Carlin Springs Rd from Rt 50 south to Columbia Pike and near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and George Mason.” [Twitter]

New W-L History Marker Under Consideration — “Four years after the installation of a marker celebrating the history of Washington-Lee High School was scotched by leaders of the county school system, a proposed revised marker – honoring the school now known as Washington-Liberty – is wending its way through the development process.” [Sun Gazette]

Next Community Convo with Police Chief — “Join Chief Penn and members of ACPD at the next Community Conversations with the Chief to share your thoughts on the future of policing in Arlington! Our next conversation will take place on Friday from 10 AM to 12 PM at Metro 29 Diner located at 4711 Lee Highway.” [Twitter]

Huske Signs Sponsorship Deal — “2020 U.S. Olympic medalist [and Arlington resident] Torri Huske announced that she’s signed a swimwear deal with TYR on Friday, making her the third high-profile swimmer set to begin their freshman year of college to do so. Huske, 18, will join Stanford University in the upcoming collegiate season. Terms of the deal have not been made public.” [SwimSwam]

Youth Baseball Team’s Championship Run — “Overcoming four tournament losses, the 9-under Arlington Storm Black managed to finish second in the Babe Ruth World Series. The Storm lost in the ultimate title game of the baseball tournament in Jensen Beach, Fla., by a 7-3 score, to Florence, Ala. The meeting was the fourth between the teams in the competition. About 90 minutes earlier that same day, Arlington had previously routed Florence, 11-1, to force a playback game between the two teams in the championship round.” [Sun Gazette]

Reminder: N. Glebe Road Closure — “All lanes of N. Glebe Road between Military Road and Chain Bridge Road, in the northern tip of Arlington, [are now] closed for construction… The nine-day closure is the culmination of the $10 million rehabilitation project for the nearly 50-year-old bridge over Pimmit Run, just before Chain Bridge. Between Friday, Aug. 13 and Monday, Aug. 23, crews will work to replace the entire bridge deck and its underlying beams.” [ARLnow]

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The new Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center “should open later in this month,” a county spokeswoman tells ARLnow.

The long-planned, $60 million center near Crystal City is preparing to make its debut as a destination for lap swimmers, casual pool users and fitness buffs alike. A formal announcement of its impending opening is imminent, we’re told.

“We will be announcing its opening date [this] week,” said Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “Beginning in September, all of the County’s swim classes will be held at Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center.”

“While the pandemic may have impacted the timeline slightly (much like most construction projects over the past 18 months), the fact that this was a Design/Build agreement assured us that costs remained the same and did not escalate,” Kalish said of the slight delay in the opening — at one point it seemed possible it might open in July. The project was approved in 2017.

Kalish said a ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on Friday, Sept. 24, followed by an open house on Saturday, Sept. 25.

“To celebrate… we are coordinating a community-wide Opening Celebration,” she wrote. “More details on this event will be available in the next two weeks.”

A new website for the aquatics center was recently launched, inviting interested patrons to sign up for an email list.

“Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center is a 92,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art aquatics and fitness facility that serves the needs of health-conscious, fun-seeking and active individuals and families,” the website says. “The center is committed to the promise of fitness and fun for all who live, work and visit Arlington County.”

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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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Summer House,” a colorful, beach-themed outdoor workspace and social spot, debuted today in Crystal City.

This nostalgic neon installation, sponsored by the National Landing Business Improvement District, is located at 101 12th Street S., a grassy area near Long Bridge Park. The pop-up open space was the site of a BID-funded art installation earlier this year and is slated to be redeveloped as an office building.

The National Landing BID held a dry-run yesterday (Tuesday) with Pride-themed margaritas, a DJ and food trucks. Similar experiences will continue all summer long so locals can work and play outdoors.

National Landing BID President and Executive Director Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said the idea of Summer House was “to celebrate this moment where we’re all ready to be done with COVID and to enjoy being together again.”

During the day, people can take advantage of remote-work essentials such as standing desks and WiFi. After work, the National Landing BID envisions the area transforming into a gathering place for locals, with food and drink provided by local businesses including The Freshman, which recently opened, and Peruvian Brothers.

Gabriel said the BID welcomes any local small businesses looking for extra exposure to come and present what they have to offer in the new space.

Additionally, the BID will host weekly events throughout August such as tie-dyeing, yoga and happy hours.

“I think we’re all done with staring at a computer screen,” Gabriel said. “This is a real-life way to interact and bring a little color, bring a little joy, bring a little summer into people’s lives.”‘

She said the business district chose the spot because it sits within walking distance of several new projects, including the Long Bridge Park aquatics center, and, of course, Amazon’s HQ2.

Photos courtesy Daniel Swartz

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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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