Thank you for the March 5 article and the March 12 editorial on the proposed new pool at Chinquapin. You have helped focus attention on a critical project for the City. The Ewald, Lee, and Colasanto pools have all been closed in recent years. Warwick will not open this summer and most of the remaining swimming pools in the City are deteriorating. A study shows that the City is only meeting 20% of the swimming demand with the current facility at Chinquapin. All of this has been known to citizens and to our City leaders. Our group – the Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics (AAA) – has been working with the City staff and the City Council over the past three years to develop a solution to the problem. Council approved $23 million in long-range capital funds back in 2012 to address the need to rebuild our aquatics infrastructure.
We are now approaching the implementation stage for the improvements – which includes the new pool at Chinquapin – which would probably be better described as a 20+ lane multipurpose pool than an Olympic pool. It would rarely be used in its 50-meter configuration. It would be much more likely to be used with the 20+ lanes crosswise or for aerobics, scuba training, water polo, etc. etc. The current pool at Chinquapin is not nearly large enough to meet the demand.
But no matter the name, the Hughes Group’s cost estimates came as a shock to our group, the swimming public, and I’m sure the City staff. Rather than despair over the potential loss of a pool, AAA immediately developed a four-prong approach to solve the financial crisis and make a multipurpose pool possible.
- First, we advocate looking at various different types of pool structures, which might be less expensive than the traditional brick and mortar used by the consultant.
- Second, we also advocate a close examination of the cost estimates to determine if savings are attainable in the proposed brick and mortar structure.
- Third is to have our City Council discuss the potential of a joint venture with the Arlington County Commissioners. As you correctly pointed out, they have problems with their swimming project; we have problems with ours. Can we work together to build shared facilities that could benefit residents of both jurisdictions?
- Fourth is to raise private sector funds. City Council saw the wisdom of that early in the process and asked us to raise at least $2.5 million in private money for Chinquapin.
As part of our effort, we met with the Hughes Group and City staff this week to present these ideas. We will now be writing to the Acting City Manager asking him to adjust the existing contract with Hughes to identify the costs of alternative structures, as well as what cost savings would be possible in the current proposed structure. We will concurrently continue to encourage cooperation with Arlington and seek to raise private funds.
You have called on Mr. Jinks to get involved to solve the problem. We are taking the same approach by asking him to explore these other alternatives.
We expect to reach a solution and build a new pool at Chinquapin. Mr. Jinks and other capable staff members in the City will help, just as the City Council will help. We hope to see a future article in your paper describing how a collaborative effort solved a pressing need for the City.
Chair, Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics