Long Bridge Park aquatics center

An original conceptual design for the proposed Long Bridge Park aquatics center. Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has proposed constructing a downsized version of the facility.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is on board with the county government’s plan for a downsized Long Bridge Park aquatics center.

“In addition to the great benefits that the proposed facility will offer to residents . . . the facility will offer a competitive advantage in the commercial market, as well,” Arlington Chamber president Kate Bates said in a July 13 letter to County Board members.

“One of Arlington’s main assets is the employee talent pool we have residing in our county,” Bates wrote. “The proposed facility will help attract and retain this talent, as well as the businesses looking to employ them.”

Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz in April resurrected planning for the Long Bridge Park aquatics center, located in the northern end of Crystal City, offering a proposal that cuts the size of the facility more than 35 percent and makes inroads into high construction and operating costs that sunk an earlier incarnation of the plan.

Schwartz’s proposal, detailed to County Board members, calls for a 73,000-square-foot complex – down from 116,000 square feet – that would cost $40 million to $44 million to build (not including design, project-management and contingency fees).

Schwartz’s proposal also projects lower taxpayer subsidies to operate the facility. It was those high subsidies, along with higher-than-expected construction bids, that led then-County Manager Barbara Donnellan to put the proposal on hold in January 2014.

The Chamber letter says the county government should be open to the possibility of public or private partners emerging to fund a portion of the overall cost, which would allow the county either to expand the scope of the project or lower the net cost to taxpayers.