New Survey Supports the Chinquapin Pool!

Strong Public Support for 50 Meter Pool at Chinquapin
Recent survey shows over 60% of Alexandria residents support a new 50 meter pool at Chinquapin Recreation Center. According to a recent public opinion survey commissioned by Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics (AAA), roughly two-thirds of Alexandria residents favor the City of Alexandria investing $20 million on a new 50 meter pool at Chinquapin Rec Center.

In particular, Alexandrians believe a new pool is needed to expand access for local children to learn to swim and to allow residents of all ages to use the facility for exercise, rehabilitation and recreational uses.

Local residents also appreciate the economic benefits a new facility will bring to the community. With a state of the art 50 meter pool in Alexandria, local swim teams finally will have the ability to host meets – ranging from events for regional youth swim clubs to local high school teams to adult Masters swim teams from the East Coast. By attracting more visitors to Alexandria, restaurants, hotels and other local businesses will see an influx of customers.

“The survey results show that the Alexandria community is committed to improving our aquatics infrastructure,” said Bill Rivers, chair of Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics’ Board of Directors. “I am encouraged to see that local residents acknowledge the importance of creating an opportunity for every child in Alexandria to learn to swim and the benefits a new facility will provide to our local economy.”

In 2016 Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics signed a formal partnership agreement with the City to help coordinate the public-private efforts to improve Alexandria’s aquatics facilities. A specific area of focus is the design and construction of a new pool at Chinquapin. With Alexandria’s City Council set to approve the FY 2018 budget in early May, AAA wants the 50 meter pool fully funded so construction can begin in 2018.

Alexandrians want to see youth swim lessons incorporated into the educational curriculum – something that is not feasible given the programming constraints at the existing aquatics facilities. If every school age child in Alexandria is to have the opportunity to learn to swim, more pool space is required.

“This survey demonstrates that Alexandria strongly supports our local leaders committing to the construction of a new pool at Chinquapin,” said Carolyn Griglione, a member of the AAA Board of Directors. “I know there are many competing priorities in the upcoming budget but a new pool at Chinquapin is an investment in a healthy and safe future. Approximately 7,500 children in Alexandria do not know how to swim, and we need to ensure that our community affords everyone an opportunity to learn a skill that can save their life.”

Additionally, Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics has commissioned a separate study to identify ways the private sector can contribute to the construction and ongoing operation of a 50 meter pool at Chinquapin. A key goal of that study is to ensure the facility has a steady and sustainable revenue stream, thus becoming less reliant on taxpayer dollars.

Specific findings from the March 22-March 24 survey include:
• 84% support giving more kids the opportunity to learn to swim
• 77% believe swim lessons must be part of the educational curriculum in Alexandria
• 77% believe a new pool will generate revenue for the city, economic benefits for restaurants/hotels
• 75% want to see more programs at local pools such as water aerobics and recreational lap swimming.

The study was sponsored by Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics and conducted by Hudson Pacific. The results are based on a survey of 300 adults who indicated they reside within the city limits of the City of Alexandria. Surveys were conducted in English between March 22 and 24, 2017 and averaged 7 minutes in length.

Fieldwork was conducted via telephone by Survey Sampling, Inc. using a random-digit dial sampling methodology. The survey was designed to be representative of the City of Alexandria adult population by gender, age, education and race. The targets were based on 2015 population estimates from the United States Census Bureau.

We need you to swim to the rescue once again!

As I indicated to you in my message after the budget submission, we face yet another challenge to the new pool at Chinquapin. We are not part of the base budget for FY 2018, but we are in the supplemental Capital Improvement Plan for FY 2018. What that means is that we have to convince the City Council to move the pool money from the supplemental (or unfunded) area to the base (or funded) budget.

We had a very productive meeting with Council Member John Chapman last week. He thinks that there is a chance that Council will agree to move some projects from the supplemental list to the base budget. But he warned us that many projects would be competing for that status, so we need to redouble our efforts to convince Council of the need for the new pool.

Accordingly, I’m asking you once again to write to the Council members and to the City Manager expressing your support for the new pool. You’ve done a great job so far and we are getting closer to the end so please take the time to write that message – even a short one is fine – and tell the Council that the new pool is needed.

We are stressing the following points in our meetings with the Council members:

  • This is the third time that the aquatics community has been shortchanged on this pool.

– In 1985, the City built the wrong size pool and no school in Alexandria has been able to host an official meet in over 30 years.

– In 2008, $25 million set aside for Chinquapin was taken because of the cost overrun on the TC Williams High School.

– And now in 2017, we have seen our approved funding once again disappear.

  • 7,500 school kids will not have the opportunity to learn how to survive in the water without the pool space offered by the new pool.
  • The pool would benefit a wide range of Alexandria residents from toddlers to octogenarians. It offers city-wide services, unlike other fitness facilities in the City.

There are plenty of other reasons for the new pool, but these three are a good start to any message that you want to send.

You did it once in getting over 100 messages sent to Council members. Please do it again for yourselves and future generations of Alexandrians.

Here are the links for your messages:  You can contact the Mayor and City Council and the City Manager by clicking on these links.

Also, if you are available, please come to the public sessions of the City Council and speak on behalf of the Chinquapin pool.

Thanks, Bill Rivers

FY 2018 Budget

The City Manager submitted his proposed budget for FY 2018 along with the ten year Capital Improvement Program to the City Council on Tuesday, February 21st.  As usual, we are faced with challenges regarding the new pool at Chinquapin.

The money for the new pool is not part of the CIP. That is the bad news. However, it is part of a listing of capital projects in a supplemental CIP. That supplemental CIP has $15.35 million in it for the new pool for FY 2018. That is the amount needed from the City to go with the $4.5 million that they already approved and have in a reserve account for the project. To get the $15.35 million, we will need the City Council to decide to move it into the base CIP.  This may require a tax increase due to the substantial funding now needed by the school system.

There are many questions yet to be answered regarding the proposed budget. The AAA Board of Directors will meet on Monday, February 27th at 6:30 pm at Chinquapin to discuss the budget and how we should react to it. If any non-Board members are interested, please join us for that meeting.

Let me close with a thank you to our membership. I’m sure that without all of your messages to Council and to the City Manager, we would not even be in the supplemental CIP. The school needs would have forced us out altogether if you had not intervened.

After we discuss the next steps to take, we will be back to the full membership.

Bill Rivers

Fuel the Pool on #GivingTuesday

Join us for #GivingTuesday at Fairlington Pizza! Thanks to the generous support of Nick and the team at Fairlington Pizza, 20% of all sales on November 29 will be donated to AAA. Additional donations will be welcome.

Family owned and operated since 1963, Fairlington Pizza is located at:
1715 Centre Court Plaza
Alexandria, VA 22302
For delivery call: 703-998-6711

Fairlington Pizza will be supporting AAA from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on November 29. Please tell them that you support AAA when placing your order!

To reach our ultimate goal, we have set an ambitious target for this #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving, on November 29:

50 gifts of $1,000
100 gifts of $50
Total goal: $55,000

It’s easy.  You can give right here on our website and your gift is tax-deductible.

Thank you for your support.
Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics

City Manager puts hold on the contract award for Chinquapin

Please see the messages below. The City Manager decided to put a hold on the award of the design contract for the new pool at Chinquapin because of his concern over the coming capital requirements for the school system and existing facility repair throughout the City. AAA strongly opposes that decision as you will see in the messages.

To the AAA Membership:

Well, it wouldn’t be normal not to have a challenge in our Chinquapin project. We just received word of the latest one – a decision by the City Manager to hold off awarding the design contract for Chinquapin due to a re-evaluation of capital projects. This re-evaluation is because of the large capital needs of the school system and of the need for repairs to existing facilities throughout the City. The re-evaluation will extend beyond the design contract to the entire Chinquapin pool project.

We are strongly opposed to this decision. While we fully support additional investments in our community schools, the new facility at Chinquapin is critical to ensuring that the more than 7,500 kids in Alexandria who don’t know how to swim can acquire this life skill. We have been working closely with the ACPS staff to create an aquatics section within the P. E. curriculum in every school in the City so that every child in the Alexandria school system has access to swim lessons and water safety instruction. Without the 50-meter pool at Chinquapin, it will be impossible to implement that curriculum because the existing facility simply does not have enough space. Delaying the construction of the 50-meter pool prevents the children of Alexandria from learning a skill that will benefit them throughout their life – and potentially save their life.

Earlier today we sent a letter to the City Council expressing our displeasure and asking for their support (see the AAA website later for a copy of that letter). We will also be taking a number of other actions to counter this move, including: meeting with the Council members; briefing local reporters; meetings with other interested organizations for support; etc. But the most important thing that we can do is to ask you all to help ensure the new Chinquapin pool is completed in 2018!

We must convince the City Council and the City Manager of the widespread support for the pool in our community. The best way to do that is to ask you to contact the Council and the City Manager and tell them that you support the new pool at Chinquapin. That you support the need for all kids to learn how to swim; the need for all residents to have access to a pool for their activities; the need for our local schools to have a place to practice and hold home meets; the need for more pool capacity when a City study shows that only 20% of aquatics needs are being met now. We will have various organizations reach out to them as well, but nothing says it better than private citizens sending their own message.

You can contact the Mayor and City Council here and the City Manager here. This is a critical time for the Chinquapin pool. We are so close to realizing that dream – help us all get there by sending your message!

The timing is such that this comes when we are in the middle of our #GivingTuesday fund-raising campaign (November 29). We have decided to continue the fundraising effort since we will need to continue to fight for the Chinquapin pool. So please give if you are able. To those many who have already given – thank you!

And please attend the #GivingTuesday party at Fairlington Pizza on the evening of November 29. Several members of the Board will be there to thank you in person.

While this delay is unfortunate, we are still optimistic that this pool will be built. Too many people in the community need it. Please check the website periodically for updates.

Bill Rivers
Chair, Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics

Dear Mayor and Members of the City Council:

On Wednesday, you received an email from City Manager Mark Jinks regarding his decision to delay the contracting action on the new pool at Chinquapin and possibly to recommend abandoning the project completely. As indicated, Mark had the courtesy to call me and alert me to his actions. As you know, AAA does not support this action and will strongly advocate for the project to continue on schedule.

Over the past four years, considerable effort has been spent by a vast number of people to create the environment for adding the second pool at Chinquapin. You all have been a crucial part of that with your unanimous votes in favor of it, and we are now asking for your continued support. As many of you have stated in the past, this pool is essential for every child in Alexandria to learn to swim. Over half of our school kids don’t know how to swim, with a large number of them being minority students. These are the same students for whom the City is attempting to build additional school facilities. In fact, AAA has been working with ACPS to include swimming as part of the school curriculum starting when the new pool opens – with the full support of Dr. Crawley and his staff. We favor an approach in which the two efforts would complement each other rather than sacrificing one for the other.

In his message to you, the City Manager expresses concern about adding new facilities when existing ones need attention. If that were the driving force for the City’s budget process, then nothing new, including schools, would be built at a time when the city’s growing population of families with children are demanding more recreational facilities as well as more school capacity.

In a public poll, 76% of the respondents supported the new pool at Chinquapin. And the City’s own study showed that only 20% of our residents’ aquatics needs are being met by our existing facilities. The public needs and wants this new pool.

We are also concerned about the unintended consequences of this action:

  • We have worked for four years with the City as part of a public/private partnership to get this project done. Now as the actual work on the new pool is about to begin, the future of the partnership is being thrown into doubt. What does that say about the viability of public/private partnerships? Why would any group enter into a large-scale relationship that City could arbitrarily end at any point?  We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the City Manager about this project; we have worked collaboratively with the City to make this happen (at times when the City Administration wasn’t even supporting it); we have committed considerable time and effort to make this happen for our citizens. This undermines the idea of public/private partnerships and the very concept of the Parknership program being initiated by the City. If this stands, we would recommend to any other group that they not enter into such relationships with the City.
  • By delaying the signing of the design contract, the City Manager has effectively delayed the construction of the new pool. That means that more of our children will be without valuable life saving lessons for that much longer. Hardly a situation that our residents would endorse.
  • It significantly impedes AAA’s fundraising efforts. It has taken four years and hard work to overcome skepticism in the community about the City’s support for a new pool. This decision reaffirms the doubters’ misgivings. Why trust the City to follow through on actions even when the City Council has unanimously approved them when something like this is done?
  • It’s very difficult to approach potential donors and ask for money when we can’t be certain what the City will do. Because of your vote in May to approve the contracting action, we have made promising progress with several prospective donors – and now we have to tell them that we are not sure if the City still supports the project, which will undoubtedly cause them to re-assess their decisions.
  • We had so much faith in our working relationship with the City that we awarded a contract to a sports marketing firm to develop a return on investment study for naming rights to features at the new pool to encourage large donors. This contract was designed, in part, to help AAA identify potential private sector sponsorship packages that will provide a long-term stream of revenue to the City to support ongoing operations well past our initial capital contribution – something that would reduce the need for budget dollars to support operating costs and save the City money in the long run. Something that may be of benefit to the City in other circumstances as well. However, the uncertainty around the decision on the new pool has the very real potential to limit AAA’s ability to enter into substantive conversations with potential donors identified as part of the impact study.
  • As a further example of AAA’s willingness to find innovative solutions to financing an improvement to the community’s aquatic infrastructure, we have received a proposal from a bank to undertake an unique funding approach where AAA would borrow the money at a reduced rate for a new pool; run it for ten years under a lease with the City; and then turn it over to the City. We didn’t pursue it because we don’t have the technical expertise on our Board to do that. However, maybe thinking like that needs to be applied to other areas requiring capital funding in the City.

It goes without saying that AAA is passionate about this project. As indicated, we will ask our constituency to contact both you and the City Manager to express their views. We would appreciate individual meetings with you and will be contacting you as soon as possible. We need your guidance during this critical time. We will also send you a separate list of the actions that we have taken and are taking to give you a more comprehensive picture of the impact this decision by the City Manager will have.

We thank you again for your continued support. Working with all of you makes us believe that everything will work out as currently planned.

Bill Rivers
Chair, Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics

Vacancy Announcement for Chinquapin Director

AAA is pleased to announce that the City of Alexandria has posted a vacancy announcement for a new Director of the Chinquapin Recreation Center and Aquatic Facility. The new Director will help oversee the construction of the new 50-meter pool at Chinquapin and the implementation of programming at the new site. AAA helped ensure the emphasis on candidates with experience in the building and operation of a 50-meter pool.

Vacancy Announcement