Consultants tapped to look at the city's aging public swimming and wading pools have recommended the city replace them at a capital cost of nearly $50 million.
The consultant team of Kimley-Horn and Counsilman-Hunsaker said the plan would create new pools with life expectancies of 30 to 50 years, triple annual attendance to more than 300,000 people, raise operating costs to $3.5 million, increase annual revenues to $2.7 million and reduce annual operating subsidies due to the increase in visitors.
The Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities hosted a public meeting on Wednesday at the to review the findings of the City of Alexandria Aquatics Facilities Study. The recommendations include:
- A new Old Town Medium Family Aquatic Center at a cost of $5.5 million;
- A new Warwick Sprayground at a cost of $2.5 million;
- A new West Side Medium Family Aquatic Center at a cost of $5.3 million, not including costs for infrastructure or demolition to prepare the site;
- A new Ewald Sprayground at a cost of $2 million;
- A new Chinquapin Recreation Pool with a 25 yard by 25 meter competitive pool and leisure pool at a cost of $28 million;
- A new Lee Indoor Wellness and Therapy Pool at a cost of $3.4 million;
- A new Colasanto Interactive Fountain at a cost of $832,000; and
- A continuation of the to be an outreach or higher-subsidized pool.
The city currently operates one indoor and six outdoor pools, two of which are closed and another of which, Ewald, is slated to be closed. Most of these have outdated infrastructure, do not meet current codes and lack enhanced water recreation facilities, the city’s consultants said.
Jim Spengler, director of the city’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, said the study provides a guide for future capital improvement programs to be implemented over a 15-year period.
“It’s fairly typical from a standpoint, if you look at roadways, how often do you see a roadway being built or made bigger?” he said. “So to think over a 50-year period of time you do nothing to make a pool better, or that needs from swimming have changed over time, then it wouldn’t happen with any other type of facility.”
Mark Hatchel with Kimley-Horn said the aquatics study included meeting with neighborhood associations, residents, competitive swim groups, instructors, pool users, the Health Department and local schools.
Hatchel said a 2011 needs assessment found an existing unmet need for both indoor and outdoor facilities. There is a 300 person wait list for spring swim lessons and insufficient capacity for summer day camps.
Kevin Post with Counsilman-Hunsaker said the recommended planning would occur in four phases. First, Old Town Pool would be replaced with the Medium Family Aquatic Center, Warwick would be upgraded and minimum repairs would be made to Chinquapin. In the second phase, a West Side pool would be added and Ewald would be upgraded.
During the third phase, Chinquapin would be replaced. The fourth phase would entail replacing Lee and upgrading Colasanto.
Hatchel said costs could be augmented by higher user fees with a blend of rates, including different rates for city residents and nonresidents and membership deals.
“If you build a nice new facility, even with an increase of $3 to $6 dollars, it’s still just the cost of buying a Happy Meal at McDonald's, and they can leverage that by buying a season pass,” he said. “… There are plenty of opportunities for people who use the pool a lot to save.”
During the public meeting, concerns from the audience included availability of parking at the pools, the timing and sequence of the improvements and new construction, availability of swim lanes during peak times, the potential for diving board amenities, the option of expanding pool hours and the lack of consistency in pool hours.
Post said if the city takes no action, the pools have a lifespan of the next five to 10 years at the most. Hatchel said pools can usually be rebuilt during the off-season when the facilities are closed.
To date, the city has not allocated any funds for the proposed pools.
For more information, visit the city's Recreational Parks and Cultural Activities webpage.