The June 6, 2019 letter to the editor [Mount Vernon Gazette, “Still Waiting on Improvements”] concerning improvements at Mount Vernon RECenter needs clarification and a bit of fact checking. Thank you for this opportunity to provide accurate information and some project background. I want to emphasize that the entire process, from planning and evaluation, to design and construction scheduling has involved the public and welcomed community input. Furthermore, considering the scale of the planned improvements and expansion, our timetable is reasonable and in the best interest of the project and ultimately, the community.
The writer noted that bond funds from the 2008 Park Bond were used for improvements at Spring Hill and Oak Marr RECenters. However, it was the 2012 Park Bond which funded construction projects at both these sites. These projects were originally identified as future expansions when these RECenters were initially developed in the mid-1980s. The 2011 Park Authority Financial Sustainability Plan identified these projects as key to keeping the Park Authority’s revenue fund solvent after the financial turndown in the late 2000s.
The Mount Vernon RECenter was constructed in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the ice rink being completed first and then the natatorium being added on. Funding in the 2008 Park Bond was allocated to begin feasibility and design studies to expand and renovate the Mount Vernon RECenter. To date a thorough facility assessment, feasibility study, and design/development plans for the renovation and expansion of the RECenter have been completed. As those plans were developed, they have been shared with the public. The facility assessment determined the existing pool and ice rink should remain with renovation and expansion of the RECenter occurring around these existing facilities. The feasibility study determined the need for expanded fitness space, additional multi-purpose space, modern locker rooms with accessible family changing rooms as well as updating the building systems that are at the end of their lifecycle. The feasibility study also indicated that there is a growing demand for indoor skating facilities and adding a second sheet of ice at the RECenter would be a cost-effective solution to meet the demand for additional skating facilities. Funding for the second sheet of ice is not currently identified.
Based on existing site constraints both the feasibility study and the design development process confirmed that adding a second story to the existing one-story building was the most effective way to provide for the additional facilities. Adding the second story brings the new front entry of the RECenter closer to grade with the existing parking areas and allows for accessible access to the entry from the main parking area. Pedestrian and bicycle access will be accommodated via sidewalks and trails connecting to Belle View Boulevard and Fort Hunt Road from the new entrance.
The 2016 Park Bond included funding for the renovation and expansion of the Mount Vernon RECenter with a future phase for development of a second sheet of ice. Based on the need for additional ice the current design process allows for phased construction of the improvements to accommodate customer needs. The current project schedule has construction getting underway in December 2020, with an expected completion date in May 2023 based on an anticipated 30-month construction schedule. While project completion is later than originally projected in a May 2018 public presentation, we believe the complexity of the project, and the phasing of construction require a longer construction schedule.
Please keep in mind, that the potential addition of the second sheet of ice and supporting facilities, if funded in the 2020 Park Bond, could alter the projected completion date.
The Park Authority has a long and successful track record of capital project completion on time and on budget. We have no reason to suspect that this project will be any different from the many others we have undertaken. In fact, the phased approach to construction will allow us to open facilities as they are completed during the construction period. Throughout the continued development process, the Project Team plans to update the public as significant milestones are achieved. We ask for patience as the work begins and look forward to a ribbon cutting and community celebration upon completion.
Public Information Officer
Fairfax County Park Authority