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Monday, March 27, 2023
ArlingtonOpinionEditorial: A 17-year journey to aquatics-center opening

Editorial: A 17-year journey to aquatics-center opening

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Arlington officials are giddy, as perhaps they should be, about the gleaming new Long Bridge Park aquatics center and fitness facility. The “soft” opening occurred Aug. 23, with something more formal in September.

And it indeed is good news to get this behemoth up and running, even though it has taken 17 years to do it.

Yep, it was the fall of 2004 that Arlington voters approved funding for the Long Bridge Park complex, which they were told would include both outdoor facilities as well as the indoor amenities.

But then, “mission creep” took over, and like so many Arlington capital projects of the era, the cost ballooned and the focus got lost. (The phrase “a camel is a horse designed by committee” may be applicable here, although we don’t want to malign the workmanlike and trusty dromedaries out there.)


In 2012, the county government had to go back to the voters for more money, which the electorate gave, though somewhat grudgingly. That too-close-for-comfort vote should have been the canary in the coal mine for Arlington leaders – Democrats all – that the public was getting restive with its tax-tax-tax-and-spend-spend-spend mentality.

Those chickens would come home to roost in 2014-15 with the election of independent John Vihstadt, the killing off of the Columbia Pike streetcar project, the shuttering of the money-pit Artisphere and, a little later, elimination of what The Washington Post called (wrongly, but cleverly) “million-dollar bus stops” along Columbia Pike.

But time rolls on, and with the exception of a few, nobody in the local press corps[e] has watched this aquatics-center drama from the beginning.
But it’s worth an encore, so in this week’s edition we have an article that notes all the details, from start to finish, with twists and turns, of getting to the opening.

With the opening, the only question that remains is this: Can the county government manage the facility in a way that reduces the risk to Arlington taxpayers?

Time will tell; as the Artisphere proved, good intentions and overly optimistic financial projections can lead to ruinous results. No desire to see a rerun of that situation.

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