Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria

Setting the Record Straight on the Proposed New Chinquapin Pool

An editorial column in the February 11, 2016 edition of the Alexandria Times argues that the proposed new 50-meter pool at Chinquapin should not be built unless it is undertaken by a public/private partnership or paid for in full by a nonprofit organization.

fuelthepool-robinAs a matter of fact, the Chinquapin project began as a public/private partnership three years ago. The Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics (AAA)—a group of private citizens interested in improving the availability of aquatics facilities in Alexandria—has been working with the City staff and the City Council since day one of this project. The Capital Improvement Plans (CIP) for the City over the last three years have reflected the need for and the expectation of private sector funding to complete the project. Specifically, the CIP budget includes $20 million of city funds, and AAA has committed to raise $2.5 million in private-sector funds. If you’ve seen the eye-catching “Fuel the Pool” car magnets while driving around town, that’s the public-private partnership at work.

This isn’t the “paid-for-in-full by a nonprofit” approach that the Alexandria Times unrealistically prefers, but AAA believes that expanded indoor pool capacity is very much in the city’s interest, and therefore having the lion’s share of the funding come from public sources is entirely appropriate.

A year ago, the same publication reported that the new pool at Chinquapin was “dead in the water” because the cost estimate from the City consultants had suddenly ballooned from $20 million to $30 million. AAA agreed that the new $30 million price tag was unreasonable, and immediately got to work with the City and their consultant to find ways to reduce the cost of the new pool. As presented to City Council on February 9 of this year, the consultant’s final report shows that the new pool can be built for the originally envisioned amount of around $22 million (which, again, includes private sector funds).

A Letter to the Editor sent by the Chair of AAA’s Board of Directors to the Times on February 12 not only corrects the record but also outlines some of the facts that make the case for the pool:

  • A consultant’s report estimates that the current pool at Chinquapin is only meeting 20% of the public need.
  • Without more pool space, we cannot provide swimming instruction to all kids in Alexandria. This is one of AAA’s key goals for building the new pool—to make sure that all of our children have the opportunity to learn an essential life skill.
  • Our three local high school teams cannot hold their home swim meets in Alexandria because the pool at Chinquapin is not regulation length.  They must be bussed to Fairfax and other jurisdictions to host their “home” meets at rented facilities, and in some cases, to hold practices. (Earlier this year, when the annual “All-City” swim meet between T.C. Williams, St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes and Bishop Ireton was being planned, there was serious consideration given to holding the meet at a pool in Arlington because of Chinquapin’s inadequacies.)
  • The new pool will benefit Alexandria residents from newborns to octogenarians. Swimming for fitness, recreation or therapy can be done by any age group. Indeed, the availability of the additional pool will create the opportunity to provide a wide array of new therapeutic programs in the old pool. And—this is good news for anyone who wants to do recreational swimming (as opposed to serious competition or training-oriented swimming): Once the new pool is built, the water temperature in the old one can be increased to a more comfortable level.
  • Because there is only one indoor pool in Alexandria, there are continual conflicts between user groups seeking more space with none being satisfied with the existing situation. Both City staff and the City Council are well aware of this situation.

AAA agrees with the Times that the public/private partnership model for building a new pool at Chinquapin is a prudent and responsible way for the City to address the longstanding neglect of its aquatics facilities and the needs of its citizens. AAA only wishes that the Times readers, who are now left with an inaccurate and negative impression of the project, had been given the facts.

For the most up-to-date information on the Chinquapin 50-meter pool project, visit AAA’s website and join the mailing list for email updates. If you’d like to purchase one of the aforementioned “Fuel the Pool” car magnets, contact alexandriaaquatics@gmail.com. You can also find AAA on Facebook (alexandriaaquatics) and Twitter (@alexaquatics).

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Worth Reading

Alexandria native and T.C. Williams graduate Amy Roberts is a veteran teacher of English to non-English-speaking immigrant students at a high school at Union Square in New York City. In a recent Facebook post that was subsequently published by the Washington Post’s “Answer Sheet” blog about education, she offers some personal insights into standardized testing.

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Coming up

This month’s Family Fun Night at Chinquapin Rec Center will spotlight students and families from Mount Vernon Community School, but all families are welcome. It will be held on Friday, February 26, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Admission is $4 per person. These events are co-sponsored by the Alexandria Parks & Recreation Department and Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics. The next Family Fun Night will be on March 11 featuring Patrick Henry Elementary School.

 

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