Plug Pulled on Aquatics Center

Plug Pulled on Aquatics Center

Proposal put on hold for a year.

A proposal to build an aquatics center at Long Bridge Park has been put on hold after Arlington County officials determined that the cost of the project had spiraled out of control.

“Last January, I said that we would conduct extensive due diligence to ensure that the project estimate was sound and within the available budget, and that’s exactly what we did,” said Donnellan. “I have concluded, in consultation with the County Board, that the gap between our construction budget and the lowest bid is simply too great to bridge at this point.”

Back in January, county officials released a document showing four bids for the new aquatics center at Long Bridge Park. They ranged from $81.9 million to $82.8 million. At the time, County Manager Barbara Donnellan described these as "significantly higher" than the estimate from county architects, although Arlington leaders refuse to say what the estimates are. Now county leaders have determined that the current vision for the park cannot be implemented within the current budget.

"I have to think that some of it is that we redesigned it in the last year to become one of the most efficient health and aquatics facilities in the world," said County Board Chairman Jay Fisette. "That may have been challenging for some of the people who bid."

PLANNING FOR Long Bridge Park has been underway for more than a decade. Back in 2012, voters approved a $42.5 million bond to finance an aquatics, health and fitness center featuring a competition pool, teaching pool, family leisure pool, therapy pool, wet classrooms and party rooms. Since that time, though, the project has come under criticism.

"I continue to believe that a less grandiose and more utilitarian community pool is appropriate for the Long Bridge community," said County Board member John Vihstadt. "I also think it's a victory for the taxpayer that the county manager pulled the plug on the current version of the aquatics center because the bids came in so wildly over budget."

Over the next six months, Donnellan says she'll try to seek potential partnerships and sponsorships including naming rights opportunities. She plans to come back to the County Board by the middle of next year.

“We still believe that the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, as well as the additional parkland planned for Phase 2 development, are important elements of the County’s revitalization of Crystal City,” Donnellan said. “We are not asking Arlington County taxpayers for more money to build the facility. Instead, we will be aggressively pursuing opportunities to partner with the private sector to finish Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park.”