The Long Bridge Aquatic and Fitness Center is now open

Fitness enthusiasts, lap swimmers, curious residents and families with children could be seen streaming into the Long Bridge Aquatic and Fitness Center this morning (Monday), the day the new facility opened.

A 12-year-old girl from Dorothy Hamm High School was the first to jump into the water, according to Parks and Recreation spokesperson Susan Kalish.

Later, when an ARLnow reporter visited the facility, a five-year-old boy was heard wondering how high the diving boards were, while a handful of adults practiced upstairs in a 8,000 square foot fitness center. Other families showed up later in the morning.

The county provided $ 2 million in donations from Boeing to open the center at 475 Long Bridge Drive this summer. At one point, an opening in July seemed possible, but delays pushed the date back to August.

Four years after project approval, the 92,000 square foot swimming and recreation facility – the second of four phases of the Long Bridge Park redevelopment – is officially open. It has a pool for serious swimmers and another for recreational swimmers, with plenty of community amenities, from spas to community halls.

“We have a full certificate of occupancy, but there is still a list of” things to do before the center is completely finished, said Peter Lusk, head of the county’s sports services and facilities division.

Kalish said the Parks Department will move many of its swimming programs to the center, which “will help the community a lot” as pre-pandemic swimming lessons held at Arlington public school pools fill up quickly.

Classes at the parks department are expected to resume in mid-September, “the first time in 17 months,” Lusk said.

Competitive swimmers, water polo players and synchronized swimmers can use a 79-degree pool that can be configured for either 25-meter or 50-meter laps, using movable starting platforms. There is also a space for spectators upstairs.

Some young recreational swimmers will stay in local school pools as parents have expressed concerns about travel times to Long Bridge Park.

The aquatics center “will be the home of the Arlington Aquatic Club,” Kalish said, referring to the county’s competitive swimming program that helped train Olympic medalist Torri Huske. “The younger ones will swim in the school pool closer to their home.”

Recreational swimmers can use a family pool with a paddling pool, slide, four 25-yard lanes, a man-made river, and spa. The pool is 83 to 84 degrees for toddlers, the elderly, and those who engage in therapeutic water activities. The lanes can be used for water volleyball and basketball, which Kalish said the department “hopes will be a draw for millennia.”

Nearby, “wet” meeting rooms can be used for classes and for birthdays.

Kalish shared great visions for bringing the community out, from hosting big swimming competitions, to using a big screen for movie nights, to renting open spaces and transforming a party. from the establishment’s new parking lot to farmers’ markets and wine tastings.

Pass prices vary by age group, and discounts are available for income-eligible residents. Daily admission ranges from $ 5 to $ 9 per person or $ 25 for families, and an annual pass ranges from $ 350 to $ 630 per person or $ 1,750 for families.

Boeing, with a named pool, is making about 5,000 free daily passes available to active-duty military families in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan service area USO through a lottery system.

The project has been in the works for almost a decade, sparking some controversy along the way.

Voters approved funding for the project in a bond referendum in 2012, but due to rising costs, the center was suspended in 2014. The county council approved a $ 60 million construction contract. dollars in 2017 and led the way in 2018.

But before the county was considered an aquatic center, the area was once a private park for whites only. Then it housed warehouses, a steel mill, a brick factory, and prostitutes, and was an Environmental Protection Agency superfund site, Kalish said.

“It cost so much money to clean that up,” she said, adding that some contaminated material was encased in concrete and used to build the esplanade, an elevated walkway that overlooks nearby playgrounds, the Potomac River, National Airport and Roaches Run. Waterfowl sanctuary.

When the county began to consider an aquatic center, Kalish likened the original designs to “a Maserati” that had to be toned down after the Great Recession.

“People got cranky because it changed,” she said. “I think it was being fiscally responsible.”

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