The Fairfax County Park Authority will temporarily shutter the aging Mount Vernon RECenter for two years, starting in early 2023.
The park authority board approved on the move on Wednesday (March 23). The closing will fast track a project to expand and renovate the facility, creating a bigger fitness center and adding a second ice rink.
Failing systems meant the facility needed rental equipment to keep its ice rink operational, which officials say could be costly.
The project was slated to cost $63.2 million to $67.2 million after the park authority received higher-than-expected bids from contractors, putting it $22.5 million to $26.5 million over budget. The FCPA plans to rebid the project this year.
“Due to pandemic-caused supply chain problems and impacts to the construction industry, the lowest apparent bidder submitted a bid price that was $18.2 million higher than the engineers’ estimate,” staff said a planning and development committee meeting report. “The low bid for the entire project was $50.2 million.”
Linwood Gorham, the FCPA Board’s Mount Vernon District representative, said the local hockey community has been understanding and professional about the impending shutdown.
“They’re optimistic because they think they will have two sheets of ice sooner rather than the original plan,” he said.
The Mount Vernon Senior Men hockey club has the ice from 7:15 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. on Sundays, but the group’s organizer, John Kashishian, says his players haven’t discussed alternatives yet.
He told FFXnow that, while the facility is in need of repairs — locker rooms, for example, can flood when it rains — the ice is excellent, and the time is perfect for his players.
“We’ve been around since the early 1970s,” said Del Daigle with the Potomac Senior Men, which plays on Thursdays from 7:15 -8:45 p.m. “We’ve weathered Covid. We’ll weather this.”
The park authority had allocated $40.7 million for the Mount Vernon RECenter upgrades, originally planning to keep it open during construction. But a failed chiller and other complications led staff to reassess their options and recommend the two-year closure.
FCPA Deputy Director Sara Baldwin said money will be redirected from other projects for the renovation, including $16 million from the Audrey Moore RECenter in Annandale. Discussions for an upgrade of that facility, the county’s oldest, are still ongoing.
Those reallocations would have no impact on the schedule to deliver the projects, according to the park authority.
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