Arlington's Aquatic Center. Is the ‘Want’ Worth the Cost?
On Wednesday evening, the Arlington Committee of 100 hosted a debate on the $50 million park bond, most of which will be used to pay for the County Board’s latest vanity project. According to the Arlington Sun Gazette’s online report Thursday by Scott McCaffrey:
"Proponents of the planned $79 million Long Bridge Park aquatics/fitness complex remain sketchy about the ultimate cost to both taxpayers and users, but argue that voters would be shortsighted to pass up what could be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop needed athletic facilities for an ever-urbanizing community.
“Yet critics charge that the annual cost of paying off construction and subsidizing operation of the center would take away from other county priorities, and charge that government officials aren’t being transparent in what might get cut to pay for the aquatics center.
“Those were the battle lines Oct. 10, as the Arlington County Committee of 100 hosted a mostly cerebral but at times caffeinated discussion of the pros and cons of the aquatics facility, the key component of the $50 million park bond on the Nov. 6 ballot.”
Here’s what seems to be the nut of the Sun Gazette’s article although we recommend reading all of Mr. McCaffrey’s extensive reporting:
“It’s a want, not a need – this is not the time,” said Wayne Kubicki, a civic activist who had the admittedly unenviable task of speaking against the bond at the Committee of 100.
“Kubicki painted a picture of a facility that will require taxpayer subsidies of up to $8 million a year to pay off bonds and cover operating deficits, and cautioned voters to be wary of rosy expectations laid out by supporters.
“Go to the Internet, put in ‘Artisphere’ and ‘budget,’ and see what you get,” he said, pointing to the two-year-old county cultural facility that has fallen so short of financial expectations that it is still in danger of being shuttered to stem a tide of red ink.
“But County Board member Jay Fisette, a key proponent of the aquatics center, said the project’s cost does not jeopardize Arlington’s top bond ratings. The facility, Fisette said, can recoup most or all of its operating expenses, and is an amenity the public wants.”
If you think the “public wants” this $79 million swimming pool, check the basis for Mr. Fisette’s assertion, which is a document called the North Tract Community Recreation Center Market Assessment Survey (requires Adobe) performed by ETC Institute in association with Brailsford and Dunlavey in October 2004.
Furthermore, if constructed, the facility won't even give Arlington County a world-class aquatics facity since that honor now falls to the London Aquatic Centre, which cost the City of London $416 million dollars, according to this AquaticsInternational.com webpage.
Finally, kudos to Wayne Kubicki for an outstanding job of defending Arlington County's overburdened taxpayers.