Fairfax County supervisors said they would attempt to accelerate the replacement of the amphitheater at Mason District Park -- perhaps by next summer -- after a fire destroyed the pavilion early Sunday.

"The plan is to expedite it -- get the building permits as soon as possible," said Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason), who was awakened early Sunday with the grim news that the amphitheater, the focal point of the 121-acre park and the venue for its popular free summer concert series, had burned down.

A Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said damage was estimated at $200,000. The cause is under investigation. Firefighters responded about 5 a.m. Sunday; the 60-by-40-foot outdoor theater was in flames when firefighters arrived.

"The amphitheater is gone," Gross reported to her colleagues at Monday's board meeting. "It's a terrible loss."

The county's concert series started 15 years ago at Mason District Park. Gross, a founding member of the Friends of Mason District Park, has long boasted that Mason has the best performance space, an amphitheater with a covered stage. The county Park Authority runs the summer series, which is made up of six county-sponsored programs that include children's entertainment on Saturday mornings. Mason's series is called "Spotlight by Starlight."

Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said he had talked with County Executive Anthony H. Griffin about how the county could rebuild the structure in time for the 2005 concert season, which is scheduled to begin in June.

"We'll do everything we can," Connolly said.

Mason District Park opened in 1977. The amphitheater was named after Newton W. Edwards, a former chairman of the county Park Authority who founded the Potomac Valley chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. He lived in the Alexandria section of the county and died in 1985.


Robert Carter of the county Park Authority uses a backhoe to clear the site at Mason District Park where the Newton W. Edwards Amphitheater stood. Little Bit a Blues performed at the amphitheater last year as part of the park's long-running concert series.