Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Elite Yorktown Swimmer Has Bright Future — “So far during her three-year high-school swimming career, Victoria Huske has never lost an individual race. Included in Huske’s victories for the Yorktown Patriots’ standout are six individual state championships in various strokes and she has been a member of five winning relays with one close second.” [InsideNova]

Fairlington Bus Stop Getting a Roof — “Arlington County anticipates beginning work on enhancement of the bus stop at the corner of S. Buchanan Street and 30th Street S., which include installation of a weather shelter, the week of March 9th.” [Twitter]

New Tech Helps County Explore Pipes — “With no interruption to service, our new high-tech pal PipeDiver today explored key Arlington water supply pipes, gathering a wealth of unprecedented data to assess conditions now and for long-term planning.” [Twitter]

Whitlow’s to Serve Beer with Your Face on It — “Ever wanted to drink your face? Well join us [Thursday] night from 6:30pm-8:30pm! @guinness will take your [photo], and in less time than it takes to pour a perfect pint, the 3D Malt Printer puts your face in your beer.” [Instagram]

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A new indoor swimming school is coming soon to Lee Highway in Arlington.

SwimBox offers one-on-one lessons to swimmers of all ages, from beginners to athletes. All lessons take place in the shallow, warm-water “Endless Pool,” with instant video feedback to customize swimming technique.

“We are anxious to work with the masters swimmers, competitive age group swimmers, triathletes, and adults learning to swim that live in/close to that area,” said owner Lissa Latella. “We find that the adult community is often overlooked in terms of learning to swim, so it will be great to provide that service to this new area as well.”

The space is slated to open in December, according to Latella, underneath Caribbean Grill at 5183 Lee Highway.

“The move to Arlington has been something we’ve been wanting to do for the past few years, but finding a good space that allows for our pool was a bit hard in an area where most buildings have underground parking garages,” said Latella. “Can’t put a pool above something like that!”

SwimBox applied for a construction permit in August, per county records, in which it was labeled as an “above ground modular spa.”

Photo courtesy SwimBox

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Arlington resident Alyssa Gialamas brought back two medals and a new record from the Parapan American Games in Lima.

The two-time Paralympian athlete won a Gold medal for the 50 meter backstroke as well as a Silver medal for the 200 meter freestyle. Gialamas said she began the multi-event Games with her best race, the backstroke, and finished the with another strong race, the 200 meter freestyle.

Coming in at 47.65 seconds during the backstroke, she also set a new Parapan record.

“I haven’t swam that fast since 2015,” she told ARLnow, adding that “I ended up with a gold in the 50 meter backstroke, so I was really really happy.”

Gialamas was born with arthrogryposis, a condition which keeps some of the joints in her leg from moving easily and began swimming as physical therapy but said she found freedom in the water. When in the water, she says she relies on upper body strength instead of her legs.

By day, she works as a sales consultant with Cigna in McLean where she’s “really blessed” by her coworkers’ enthusiasm of following the race and her company’s support. Netting a medal and a record was also proof the 24-year-old athlete could juggle both worlds.

“To be able to come back and show that you can do both and I can swim just as fast as when I had a full time job as when I didn’t have a full time job made it worth it,” she said.

Gialamas’ balancing act is notable considering she was among the oldest on her team — a fact teammates teased her about.

“I was called Mom a lot of times on the trip and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,'” she said.

The Illinois-born swimmer said there wasn’t much time to explore Lima between the team’s dawn-till-dusk schedule, but she did bring back one souvenir: a nasty cold.

For now, Gialamas says she’s going to catch up on sleep, take a month to recoup from her training regime that’s split between Arlington and Baltimore, and consider what she wants to do next.

“I’m really happy with how it turned out, she said. “I’m just trying to focus on where the next steps take me, and I think that’s a good way to do it because I’m just happy with how I swam and how I respected Team USA.”

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Arlington resident and Paralympian swimmer Alyssa Gialamas is flying to Peru this week for the Parapan American Games.

Gialamas, 24, is a two-time Paralympian who competed in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Games. Now, she’s off to Lima to compete in the Parapan games from August 23 to September 1 — a competition she says many para-athletes use to prepare for the next Olympics.

“I made my first Team actually at the Parapan games in Guadalajara in 2011,” Gialamas said of the competition where she won four silver medals and which led her to her first Paralympics.

A Chicago native, Gialamas was born with a condition called arthrogryposis, which prevents some of her joints from moving freely. Her parents started her swimming at three years old as a form of physical therapy.

“I’ve always loved the water, and felt free in the water, and felt like I can do anything I want,” she said. “I think that’s why I stuck with it for so many years.”

Gialamas uses long leg braces on land and joked that she actually thinks, “my body works better in the water than it does on land.”

“In the water you’re limitlessness,” she said. “There’s nothing holding you back.”

Because of the way arthrogryposis affects her legs, Gialamas doesn’t use them when she swims, instead relying on upper body strength.

Since diving into the competition eleven years ago with the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association, Gialamas won six Illinois state high school championships, and held 22 American records for short and long-course swimming.

At 17 years old, she competed in the London Paralympics, coming in fifth place in the 200-meter freestyle competition. Four years later, she competed again in Rio. After both Paralympics, she met then-President Obama together with the rest of Team USA, an experience she described as “absolutely incredible.”

This year she faces a new challenge: balancing her work schedule with her training goals. Although Gialamas lives in Arlington, she works as a sales consultant with Cigna in McLean and still trains at her Loyola University Maryland college swim team facility in Baltimore two days a week.

“I’ve seen a lot of sunrises,” she jokes, explaining that the schedule means working out of the McLean office three days a week, and out of the company’s Baltimore office two days a week. Every day she aims to arrive at the Baltimore pool, or at the Washington-Liberty High School pool near her Arlington apartment, at 5:30 a.m.

“Because of that I want to swim fast and show people that not only can I work a full-time job, but I can stay as fast as possible,” she said.

“Alyssa has overcome obstacles that would deter most, but these challenges have only fueled her competitive spirit as she sets out to accomplish her lifelong goals,” said Cigna’s Mid-Atlantic Market President Monica Schmude, who added that the health services company is “very proud” of Gialamas and is committed to employee health.

This year’s games will also be a bit different thanks to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s recent name change to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, to include all of the games’ athletes. The renaming comes a year after the organization increased Paralympian prize earnings to equal Olympians’ pay.

“It’s funny that it only added a ‘p’ to the name, but it’s a very big deal,” said Gialamas.

The Arlington athlete is scheduled to depart on Wednesday for the next challenge in Lima, and will race in the 50-meter backstroke and 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle events.

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With work kicking off on the long-awaited, hotly debated Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center, Arlington officials are looking for some feedback on what programs and services they should offer at the new facility.

After years of wrangling over the exact design and cost of the facility, county leaders expect the $60 million project will include a 50-meter pool, room for diving at a variety of heights, and a family pool, complete with elements including “a lazy river, splash pad for tots, basketball, volleyball, lap lanes and a water slide.” The project will also include a new fitness center, billed as the largest one operated by the county, and an expansion of the adjacent park and its walkways.

However, a working group is still trying to get a sense for how Arlingtonians expect to use the space, and what programs staffers should offer at the facility. The county even released a new survey this week to help inform that group’s work.

Its areas of focus include questions on what days of the week and times of day residents envision attending the aquatics center, and queries about what sort of membership options the county should offer for people looking to use the center on a regular basis.

The survey also asks respondents for their opinions on what sort of equipment the county should offer in its fitness center — with options ranging from free weights to cardio machines — and what classes it should convene at both the pool and fitness center. Potential classes could focus on Crossfit, yoga, martial arts, scuba diving, lifeguard certification and a host of other areas.

The questionnaire also includes space for people to weigh in on exactly which features they want to see at the family-focused “leisure pool,” and seeks to gauge interest on aquatic activities like diving and water polo.

The working group is set to deliver its recommendations to the County Board by spring 2019. The county held a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the project back in July, and workers are currently in the process of clearing the site. The county hopes to open the center by 2021.

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Arlington officials are gearing up to loosen some of the zoning rules governing community swimming pools, in a bid to make it easier for organizations to build or renovate pools across the county.

The Planning Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the zoning tweaks this coming Wednesday (Oct. 10), with the County Board considering the changes soon afterward.

Primarily, the changes would give the Board more latitude to hand out “use permits” for the pools, giving officials the chance to review standards for things like fencing and setbacks on a case-by-case basis, rather than subjecting every pool to the same rigid standard.

The county doesn’t currently boast a large number of community pools, by any stretch of the imagination — there are just five pools around Arlington that aren’t owned by the county or restricted for a specific neighborhood or development’s use — but the zoning changes have sped through the county’s engagement process, nonetheless.

That’s largely due to the fact that the Macedonia Baptist Church is currently hoping to redevelop a former YMCA community center in Nauck, located at 3440 22nd Street S., into a community pool, and has been pressing the county for changes to the zoning standards.

Most of those documents haven’t changed since the mid-1950s, according to a county staff report, when many of the original community pools were first built. Staff notes that those standards “were originally intended to buffer residential communities adjacent to community swimming pools from the impacts of the use, and to ensure that the pool provided ample parking on site that did not congest nearby on street parking or other off-site parking facilities.”

But as Arlington has urbanized over the years, staff believes those standards have become increasingly out of date.

For instance, the zoning ordinance currently requires pools to be built with a 100-foot setback from a residential street, a standard designed to “minimize the audible and visual impacts of the pool on nearby neighbors,” staff wrote. But with space in Arlington increasingly at a premium, county officials believe “a combination of opaque fencing and landscaping” can accomplish the same goal without requiring quite so many design headaches.

County staff don’t want to see the Board do away with that sort of limit entirely, noting that there could be plenty of future instances where the “100-foot setback requirement could be warranted to prevent mechanical equipment, storage buildings, and other pool-related facilities from being located too close to an adjacent neighborhood or property.”

By changing zoning rules to give the Board the chance to review future community pool designs, however, staffers believe members would be able to examine each application on its own and evaluate “the specific circumstances of individual properties,” making the whole process a bit less rigid.

After the Planning Commission gets a chance to offer a recommendation on the zoning changes next week, the Board is set to consider them at its Oct. 20 meeting.

Flickr pool photo by Alves Family

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The fifth annual Arlington Youth Triathlon will kick off next Sunday, June 10, at the Washington-Lee High School pool.

The public event hosted by the Arlington Triathlon Club will feature swimming, running and biking among children ages 7-15 and will start at 7:30 a.m.  The Arlington Youth Triathlon is a part of the USA Triathlon Mideast Region Youth Triathlon Series, where young triathletes from Ohio to Tennessee will come to Arlington to participate.

The triathlon will include a pool swim, a bike ride on closed streets around the school and a track finish. Each event features short distances to include kids of all abilities.

This year’s triathlon will be held in honor of Anne Viviani, an Arlington resident who died April 9 in a car crash striking a deer on I-85 in South Carolina. Viviani, 68, was a world champion triathlete and coach.

Registration for the Arlington Youth Triathlon is open until June 9. It costs $75 to register before May 15, and $85 afterward.

Photo Courtesy Arlington Triathlon Club

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The possibility of including a swimming pool in Career Center site planning arose at a joint Arlington County Board/Arlington Public Schools work session last week.

Kristi Sawert, who presented Career Center site considerations for programming and amenities during the work session, said that the pool possibility was “one of the more lively discussions” that the working group has had. Sawert listed several reasons for being pro-pool, including what she called a long-standing APS and School Board policy that aquatics education is essential.

“The main reason I hear that we don’t need a pool at the Career Center site is that those students could be bused to Long Bridge Pool when it opens,” said Sawert.

Sawert said that after having consulted with county staff, she believes that busing students isn’t feasible at the high school level because of the lack of free elective periods that students would need for off-campus travel. Busing, Sawert said, would only be a realistic option if students chose to give up core instructional time.

“Those lost hours would really add up,” she said, adding that this was a matter of equality between wealthy students who could afford private swim lessons and those who couldn’t.

High schoolers take at least eight swimming lessons per year in 80-minute blocks. Elementary and middle schoolers are required to take far fewer lessons, at just five swimming instructional hours annually.

Though County Board member John Vihstadt said that he thought a pool is appropriate and necessary, other board members had questions. County Board member Libby Garvey questioned why changes couldn’t be made to students’ schedules to accommodate activities like swimming.

“I appreciate the discussion of swimming and why we need swimming and pools, I totally believe that,” Garvey said. “But listening to the concerns and the difficulties, they all sit around schedules, and the same old block schedules, and the same old constrained day.”

Garvey suggested, as an example, a school schedule of 6 a.m.-11 p.m. for students, which she said would provide flexibility for students to go to Long Bridge to swim. Her intent with the example, she explained, was to highlight the importance of flexibility for students who need to take jobs, go to internships or do other activities that don’t conform well to the traditional school schedules.

“I totally agree with the need for swimming. I’m not sure we have to preserve the same schedule that we’ve had for a hundred years,” Garvey said.

Board member Erik Gutshall questioned how realistic it would be to have another pool in light of county-wide funding concerns.

“I’d want to know that if we’re going to build a pool, and if we agree it’s a great idea, that that pool is going to get absolute, full use and that all of our other pools that we have get full use,” he said. “Money is an object, and it’s going to be highly constrained in every decision [so] every recommendation has to be fully justified.”

Screenshot via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Local Senior Completes Alcatraz Swim — Arlington resident Mary Schade, 71, completed the 1.5-mile Alcatraz Escape from the Rock swim in San Francisco, placing first in her age group. She was the second-oldest swimmer in the race, which featured choppy, 59-degree water and a stiff wind. [InsideNova]

Arlington History Books — “Our Man in Arlington” Charlie Clark has found a number of “out-of-the-mainstream histories of our fair county,” including one book, first published in 1957, that “summarizes two centuries of legal boundary changes” involving Arlington County or its geographic predecessors. [Falls Church News-Press]

Shirlington Apartment Building Bought, Rebranded — Waterton, a real estate investment firm, has acquired the 404-unit Windsor at Shirlington Village apartment complex and rebranded it as “The Citizen at Shirlington Village.” The purchase price for the apartment building at 3000 S. Randolph Street was a reported $144 million. The new Chicago-based owners plan to upgrade the apartment units, outdoor spaces and the fitness center. [Washington Business Journal, BusinessWire]

Teachers Explore New Commuting Options — With the encouragement of Arlington Public Schools, some teachers are switching from a solo driving commute to carpooling or biking, as seen in a new video from Arlington County’s Mobility Lab. [YouTube, Mobility Lab]

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Morning Notes

A lineman working on power lines (Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok)

High Water Bills Prompt Questions — A number of Arlington residents say their quarterly water bills for the summer and fall spiked to inconceivably high levels, in some cases in excess of $2,000. The county government, however, says no systemic billing issues have been found and blames the high bills on hot and dry weather combined with homeowners irrigating their yards. [InsideNova]

News Photog Saved By Arlington Medic — WUSA9 photographer Dion Wiggins suffered a massive heart attack while shooting video of traffic along I-395 last month. It was an Arlington County paramedic, Chris Abrahams, who together with firefighter Jason Griffith revived Wiggins from cardiac arrest, stabilized him and transported him to George Washington University Hospital. Wiggins is now back at home and on the road to recovery. [WUSA9]

ACPD: Don’t DUI After the Super Bowl — Super Bowl Sunday is two days away and the Arlington County Police Department is reminding residents to designate a driver for the big game. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest days of the year for DUI, with a third of all U.S. traffic deaths due to drunk drivers. [Arlington County]

D.C. Metro Work This Weekend — Major scheduled track work will close six downtown D.C. Metro stations along the Blue, Orange and Silver lines this weekend. The Blue and Orange lines will be split in two and the Silver line will end at Ballston. “Customers traveling between Virginia and DC are encouraged to use the Yellow Line, if possible,” Metro says. [WMATA]

Kudos for Sheriff’s Office — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office has been awarded reaccreditation by the American Correctional Association Commission (ACA), whose standards are the national benchmark for the effective operation of correctional facilities in the United States.” [Arlington County]

WHS Swimmers in Regionals — “With three Wakefield swimmers heading off to regionals — the most in recent history — the Wakefield community is overflowing with enthusiasm and excitement in anticipation of a splashing victory.” [Wakefield Chieftain]

Obit: Mel Labat — Long-time Arlington tennis coach Mel Labat passed away last week. A memorial service will be held tomorrow (Saturday). A scholarship fund has been established, with the proceeds going to the Arlington Youth Tennis Program. [YMCA, Legacy]

Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok

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A newly-released survey on recreational needs in Arlington may help the case for building an aquatics and fitness facility at Long Bridge Park.

Arlington County scrapped plans to build a Long Bridge Aquatics Center in 2014, after construction bids on what was supposed to be a $79 million project came in well over budget. Since then, the county has sought public input on community recreation needs and considered partnering with the City of Alexandria on a facility.

The new survey asked about county-wide parks and recreation needs, as part of the update to the county’s Public Spaces Master Plan.

Survey respondents ranked a swimming pool and fitness equipment as the county’s two top indoor recreation needs. That corresponds to the county’s goals for a new indoor “Aquatic, Health and Fitness Facility” at Long Bridge Park.

Furthermore, the survey asked specifically about potential amenities at such a facility. Seventy percent of respondents said they had an interest in amenities at a Long Bridge Park facility, ranking their three “most important” amenities as:

  1. 50 meter pool,
  2. Health/fitness space with cardio/strength training
  3. Leisure pool with water slide, lazy river

County Board member Jay Fisette said he was “hopeful” the county could move forward on the Long Bridge Park facility.

“This seems to suggest to me that it validates the same or more interest in Long Bridge Park than we thought there was before,” he said. Fisette pointed out that in 2012 nearly two-thirds of Arlington residents approved a bond issue that was intended primarily to pay for the aquatics and fitness facility.

John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the Board, took a more restrained view.

“It really boils down to what sort of facilities and at what cost,” Vihstadt said. “I look forward to the discussion.”

Other survey findings include:

  • Hiking trails, natural areas and paved multi-use trails are the top outdoor recreation priorities
  • Nature, fitness and wellness programs, as well as special events and festivals, are the top parks and rec programming priorities
  • Most people would support food and beverage — including, potentially, alcohol — options in local parks and public plazas

The full county press release about the survey results, after the jump.
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