A swimming pool complex that almost sank over the high cost of construction four years ago was revived Tuesday night when the Arlington County Board approved the construction of a downsized Long Bridge Park aquatics center.
The board awarded a $60 million design-build contract, shaving nearly $20 million off the originally expected price of the complex by eliminating several pools and rental spaces.
The project still includes a 50-meter pool with three diving platforms, a separate leisure and family pool, a fitness center and community rooms. It will also develop 10.5 acres of Long Bridge Park, tucked between I-395 and Roaches Run Wildfowl Sanctuary near Reagan National Airport in Crystal City. Existing rain gardens and the esplanade will be expanded.
The whole site, predominantly occupied by soccer fields now, is built on a remediated brownfield.
The proposal passed 4 to 1, with board chair Jay Fisette (D) touting “the culmination of 10 years of planning.”
But the revisions weren’t enough to convince John Vihstadt (I), who was elected in 2014 based in part on his opposition to the original project.
Vihstadt said Tuesday night that he would support a modest, community-type pool at Long Bridge but could not back the more expansive complex, which has estimated operating costs of $1.1 million a year.
With growing student enrollment creating demand for new schools, he said, the county should divert the money it has set aside for the pool complex and direct it instead to parks, land acquisition and a pool at a new high school planned for south Arlington.
The design-build contract, a new concept in Arlington, means that contractor, Coakley & Williams Construction Inc., is responsible for creating a project that meets the county’s guidelines and comes in within budget.
Construction of the complex may start by summer and is expected to be completed in late 2020 or early 2021.
County officials originally expected to pay about $79.3 million to build and equip the center and upgrade the outdoor space. They were stunned when all four bids came in millions of dollars higher, left out needed requirements and did not including operating costs.
Amid a community outcry, which helped fuel Vihstadt’s candidacy, officials threw out the bids and restarted the process. Subsequent efforts to get corporate and university partnerships that would help lower the cost failed; an attempt to partner with the neighboring city of Alexandria did not succeed either.