A $4.3 million facelift will begin at the South Run RECenter this summer, to make way for a 7,000 square foot addition to the fitness center.
Also included in the renovation is the removal of one racquetball court, said Judy Pedersen, public information officer for the Fairfax County Park Authority.
"The court to be removed is not the one that was recently renovated," Pedersen said.
Avid racquetball players may be disappointed to see one of their two courts removed, but Pedersen said the increased demand for fitness center space requires the change.
"All indicators are there is a greater need for the fitness center than for racquetball," she said. A needs assessment survey conducted in 2003 shows numbers so low it could justify eliminating both courts.
The interest in playing racquetball, on a national level, has decreased by 50 percent since 1990, said Nick Duray, manager of marketing, research and planning with the Park Authority.
At South Run, the percentage of racquetball players remains steady, at three or four percent of overall activity there, Duray said, and while the second court could be eliminated, that was not a decision the Park Authority wanted to make.
"People complained in the 2003 customer needs study that they were waiting too long to use fitness equipment and they needed more space, but we didn't want to outright eliminate racquetball," Duray said.
A phone survey of 400 residents near South Run supported the written results of the study at that time, he said.
"People who play are passionate about the game and we appreciate that," Pedersen said. "We feel this is the best compromise we could come up with."
For Clifton resident Evan Farr, the compromise is far from favorable.
"This court is closest to where I live and one of the few public places to play in the county," said Farr, who has played racquetball at South Run three times a week for the past five years. He first heard about the upcoming renovation a few weeks ago from a man he knows from the RECenter, one of a group of 10 people who play there together.
Farr said most mornings, both courts are occupied between 7 -10 a.m., and if one of the courts is removed he may consider playing elsewhere.
"Apparently this is a done deal but it's not fair," he said. "They (the Park Authority) didn't study the court use in the morning, they didn't look at that. They didn't get any input from the racquetball people."
When construction begins, the renovation would add 7,000 square feet to the two-story fitness room at the South Run RECenter and add 65 spaces to the parking lot. A low-impact development storm water retention pond will also be added, Pedersen said.
South Run was built in 1988 and a study in August 2001 showed a need for an expanded fitness center and program space, she said.
Construction is expected to begin this summer and should take between 12 and 14 months, Pedersen said. Funding for the project was provided through a bond referendum.
<1b>— Amber Healy