Despite the calendar, beginnings can occur at any time, as indicated by several Mason District events during the past week. On Saturday, The St. James Sports and Wellness Complex opened in the Shirley Industrial Park, located on Industrial Road, not far from the I-395/495/95 interchange, but inside the Beltway. The St. James is the vision of co-founders Craig Dixon and Kendrick Ashton, who have delivered a spectacular building on the site of the former Washington Gas operations center. The sun came out on Saturday morning, just as the ribbon-cutting was about to start, perhaps a positive omen for the 450,000 square foot complex that includes a turfed field house for football, soccer, rugby, and field hockey; two regulation-size ice rinks; an Olympic-size swimming pool, with an adjacent spray park for the kids; a two-level workout/exercise center; and a basketball court that can host multiple games at a time. Expected to open before Christmas are a restaurant, gift shop, and other amenities. When Craig and Kendrick announced plans to expand The St. James brand to Chicago and possibly abroad, I reminded them that The St. James in Mason District should serve as the flagship and headquarters for their exciting new venture. Congratulations to The St. James!
Barely an hour later, there was another ribbon-cutting for another sports-oriented venue, smaller and more intimate perhaps, but exciting nonetheless. The Valis Family Golf Learning Center at Pinecrest Golf Course is the culmination of work underwritten by Wayne and Angela Valis, longtime Bailey’s Crossroads residents, whose generous donation to the Fairfax County Park Foundation resulted in the installation of a new TrackMan 4 Golf Simulator at Pinecrest. The indoor simulator can be programmed for holes at famous courses around the world, enabling the golfer (or duffer) to “play” those courses without leaving Fairfax County. The updated hitting bays and golf simulator allow for enhanced, year-round practice and play opportunities. At the ceremony, Wayne Valis regaled visitors with tales of playing at Scotland’s St. Andrews and other famous courses, but admitted that his heart always comes home to Pinecrest. Thank you, Wayne and Angela Valis, for your generous gift to our community.
This is Try Transit week, and the kick-off for the Justice High School Free Student Bus Pass pilot program. The Free Student Bus Pass program started as a partnership between Fairfax County Public Schools, the county’s Connector Bus, and Fairfax City’s CUE (City-University EnergySaver) buses. Nearly 50 percent of students at South Lakes and Edison High Schools have a student bus pass, and students have taken more than one million trips on those transit systems. In a collaborative partnership with WMATA, which operates MetroBus, a customized SmarTrip card will be created for students enrolled in the program, who can take MetroBus to school (if they miss the regularly scheduled school bus), to after school jobs, and community events in Northern Virginia. There were lots of excited high school students at the kick-off, anxious to sign up, and use, the new bus pass. Once the pilot program is evaluated, I am hopeful that the program can be expanded to Falls Church and Annandale High Schools.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.