The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has agreed to negotiate with a coalition of groups building a new indoor competitive swimming facility to be located in the new Belvedere neighborhood off Rio Road. If the County decides to enter into the public-private partnership with Star Swimming and the Virginia Gators Association, the County’s high school swim teams would get priority practice times at the facility. The County is being asked to spend $500,000 on the project.

The request was formally made by Dave Phillips, the Executive Director of the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors and member of Star Swimming’s Board of Trustees. He said the pool will meet a growing demand for competitive swimming facilities. Fairview Swim and Tennis Club and Star Swimming are partnering with Star Swimming on a $1.5 million new facility that would include a 25-yard by 25-meter pool with ten lanes, as well as a two-lane warm water pool for aerobics and other exercise programs.  Fairview, a private club, is paying for the new pools. Star Swimming will pay for the enclosure as part of this partnership.

Phillips said the new pool is needed because of the current shortage of lanes in both the County and the City. He said competitive indoor swimming has gained in popularity even though the community has not built more lanes. Phillips said the new facility would be fully dedicated to the sport, unlike the new Smith and YMCA pools scheduled for completion in 2010.

The County’s commitment to spend over $2 million on the YMCA’s capital costs is not in question. The Board signed into a use agreement in January 2008, but left open the question of whether to invest the additional $1.25 million .

If the County agrees to partner with Star Swimming, the funding could come from the $1.25 million the County tentatively set aside in the County’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). That money would guarantee competitive swimming lanes at the new YMCA pool at McIntire Park. However, the staff report for the proposal suggested the County could decide instead to use that money for the Star Swimming project because discussions which were to have occurred by May 20 of this year did not take place. Additionally, staff suggested that the Fairview expansion could be complete one year before the YMCA.

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) said the Star Swimming proposal was a great idea to pursue, but he though the City and the YMCA should be involved in the negotiations. “I want to be fair to the City, and it might inform how they decide to handle their pool inventory,” Slutzky said. “If we’re thinking about reallocating CIP dollars from the [YMCA] project, we owe it to the City to engage them in that conversation.”

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) made a motion that the Board take the idea into consideration. Before anyone made a second, Slutzky suggested a modification to add the City to the proposed negotiations. Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) tried to add a representative from the Crozet Pool, a private club that might be interested in expanding as well. Boyd said he wasn’t interested in developing a swimming plan for the whole area. Rooker said if Crozet Pool wanted to participate, they should bring forward a specific proposal. Mallek said she understood and she would encourage them to do so as soon as possible.

“I know that Star Swimming is ready to put the shovel in right now and get going, and that is very, very important, and we have no idea what is happening with the [YMCA],” Mallek said.
Rooker said he was not sure if this proposal would preclude the County’s participation in the YMCA, but that it was his impression they were never that interested in providing competitive swimming lanes. County Executive Bob Tucker will appoint a committee of negotiators, and both Boyd and Rooker volunteered.

After the meeting, the County’s Director of Parks and Recreation told Charlottesville Tomorrow that the Board could choose to fund both the YMCA and the Star Swimming proposals.

“The board didn’t outright say that if we fund one, we won’t fund the other,” said Pat Mullaney.

“Comparison with the Y facility is a bit like comparing apples and oranges,” Krueger wrote in an e-mail. “Their pool would be devoted solely to competitive swimming.  Ours is a full-facility Y with a competition pool, a warm water pool, locker rooms and a fitness center, among other features.”

Krueger acknowledged that the Star Swimming facility would be open sooner, but said that the YMCA was planning for a facility that could last for 50 to 80 years.

“An aluminum frame, vinyl plate structure will not have near that useful life, so when all the plates have to be replaced after a couple of years, who will be paying for that and will the County be asked for more money?” Krueger asked. He added that the full size of the YMCA has not been determined, and that if the University of Virginia agrees to help pay for construction of a competitive diving well, the YMCA facility could have as many as 16 lanes.

Sean Tubbs


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