Park Authority releases schedule, concept design for Mount Vernon RECenter expansion

The new "community hall" envisioned inside the main entrance of the RECenter. (Fairfax County Park Authority image)
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Construction on the first phase of the renovation and expansion of the Mount Vernon RECenter will start in February 2020, with an estimated completion date of July 2022.

The first phase of the renovation and expansion — which is the only phase fully funded at this point –will include a complete overhaul of the center’s existing pool, an expanded two-floor fitness center, fixes to the ice rink and a completely reworked entrance area. Phase I also includes funding for the design of a new ice rink, which is planned for Phase II. Phase III includes plans for the addition of a leisure pool.

Park Authority officials gave residents a first look at the concept design images at a packed public meeting last Sunday at the RECenter. Jim Ritter, an architect working on the project, told meeting attendees that he envisions the finished product creating a connected campus that would include the RECenter and the Martha Washington Library next door. The library was completely renovated in 2010.

“We’re thinking [of] this building and the library [as] being on a campus,” Ritter said, noting that many of the same materials used to construct the library will also be used for the center. 

Ritter also acknowledged the blandness of the current RECenter’s exterior and the hollow feeling inside parts of the building, which was built in two phases in 1979 and 1983. He said enhancements from the renovation would make the center more distinct and user friendly, and noted that more exterior light coming into the building would be a key feature.

“We wanted to try and make a connection with outside and inside,” Ritter said. “When you come in here … you’re divorced from the outside.”

The new fitness center will be two stories, with cardio equipment such as treadmills and ellipticals being located on the second floor. Weights and strength training equipment will be on the first floor.

Getting rid of the massive stairs that go from the parking lot to the main entrance is among the goals of the renovation, as is improving the entrance itself. The new addition will put the main entrance at nearly the same level as the current parking lot, thus eliminating the existing stairs, which can be particularly difficult to navigate in the winter. 

The renovation will touch the entire center, with locker rooms and multipurpose rooms all being overhauled and added. New cladding will be added to the pool and ice rink exteriors, and outdoor areas will be added or enhanced. The pool itself will get a new pool deck, as well as an ADA-compliant ramp. The existing plumbing and filter system will also be replaced; features such as a climbing wall for kids and a diving board may be added.  

As construction is being done on the existing facilities, one of the Park Authority’s goals is to keep as much of the RECenter open and operating as possible. The pool will need to be closed for a certain amount of time, and it’s possible the fitness center may need to close for periods. But minimizing those closures as well as closures to smaller parts of the facility is a priority, said Eric Inman, the project manager for the renovation and expansion.

We want to close down only the portions we have to close down for the periods that we have to close them down,” Inman said. “We want to work really hard to keep parts of the center open. As new parts open, we will let you guys use them.”

The $22.1 million project is funded primarily by a 2016 Park Authority bond, although some of the initial planning and design was funding by a 2008 bond. Another community information meeting is expected to be scheduled for December, with the design and scope of the project being worked on in the interim.

The presentation from last week’s meeting and other information about the project can be viewed on the Part Authority website.