ARLINGTON COUNTY

Facing Competition, Public Pool Gets Fancy

Lucas Araujo, 6, flies out of a water slide at the renovated Upton Hill Regional Park public pool. New features include fountains and an aquatic jungle gym.
Lucas Araujo, 6, flies out of a water slide at the renovated Upton Hill Regional Park public pool. New features include fountains and an aquatic jungle gym. (Photos By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)

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By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 17, 2007

Parents at the public pool at Upton Hill Regional Park in Arlington County were having trouble getting their kids to begin swimming lessons yesterday. The facility, featuring massive slides, fountains and an aquatic jungle gym known as a "splash pad," had too many distractions.

"They could live here," Carla Araujo of Arlington said of her 6-year-old twins, Lucas and Lila, as they took turns launching through the splash pad's yellow water slide. "They have a blast. They used to hate using the baby pool."

A $2 million renovation, dedicated yesterday, is part of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority's effort to woo residents from the increasing number of pools run by homeowners associations, officials said.

"These days, when people move into those kinds of developments, they expect that there's a pool there," said Paul McCray, the Park Authority's operations director. "This is something that we can offer that the HOAs typically don't."

About five years ago, Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville and Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling made similar conversions to their pools, leading to increased admissions, officials said. Cameron Run Regional Park in Alexandria has had a water park for more than 20 years.

At Upton Hill, admissions revenue from the Memorial Day weekend opening to June 13 was more than double that of the same period last year, Park Authority Executive Director Paul Gilbert said, partly because of a 20 percent increase in admission prices.

"It's just a stunning turnaround," Gilbert said. "In the '70s we were the pool. Now we have to be the water park. It's just a different market."

The Upton Hill renovation was funded by Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties, as well as Alexandria, Fairfax City and Falls Church, officials said. The project received a $75,000 federal grant.

New features include large tubular and open-air water slides as well as the splash pad's fountains, water cannons and hoses. Entry fees range from $4.50 to $7.50, with children under 2 admitted free.

"This has been a real nice surprise, finding out about the renovation," said Marlaine Lesko, who held her 1-year-old, Brennan, near the splash pad. "He loves the hoses."


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