On Saturday Fairfax County opens the $2.7 million Wakefiled Park recreation center - a huge complex that rivals the facilities of major universities.
"It's really a shame that a kid can come out of the Fairfax school system and still not know how to swim," said the manager of the new center, Bruce Cooper.
Now a kid can learn to swim or learn almost any other sport. In addition to an Olympic size swimming pool, the center's indoor facilities include a 10,000-square-foot gynasium, four racquet/handball courts, two squash courts, a ballet room, a weight room furnished with Mini-gym and Universal equipment, and men's and women's locker rooms complete with saunas.
For those who prefer less-perspiring activities, there is a snack bar, an arts and crafts room, a 5,000-square-foot games area, a dark room, two club rooms, a nursery and a catering kitchen.
And that's just the inside.
On the 280 acres outside, there are 10 horseshoe pits, 10 shuffleboard courts, two multi-use basketball courts, six lighted tennis courts, three softball fields, two football/soccer fields, a Little League baseball field, a playground and hiking trails.
"It's a place where the whole family can go," said Wayne Cottrill, superintendant of park facilities. "It has been long needed in Fairfax County."
Which may explain why there was no opposition to the master plan whne it was presented to county residents in early 1971. In November, 1971 a bond issue was passed and the funds were approved, and then, according to the director of the Parks Authority, Joseph P. Downs, all that was left was completing the plans.
"We sat down and began a 'wish list' and asked people for anything they would like to see in the complex," Downs said. "We gave the highest priority to what we felt were the real needs of Fairfax County."
Early in 1975 construction began on the plot on Braddock Road just off the Beltway near North Springfield. Although the complex will be open to everyone, Downs feels that a majority will come from Annandale, Ravensworth, Brook Hill, Chapel Square, as well as the Springfield areas.
The county is hoping residents are ready to exercise. According to manager Cooper, it is going to cost about $1,000 a day to keep the complex in operation. Because the facility receives no money from the county's general fund, Wakefield Park has to raise its own revenue.
"I feel confident we're going to make it," said the 33-year-old Cooper. "I think once the people see the place they'll return."
Fees will be nominal: adults pay $1.50 and children under 16, $1. Handball and squash courts run $4.50 an hour. Operating hours are tentatively 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on only one day of the year, Christmas, will exercising enthusiasts be turned away.
Wakefield Park also plans to offer classes for adults and youngsters in activities ranging from bridge to photography. Teachers will be from the Fairfax schools and neighboring communities.
The complex is the second such in the area in recent years. In 1972 Arlington opened the Thomas Jefferson Community Center, a 68,000 square-foot gym. A spokesman said it has been "extremely successful" and FairFax superintendent Cottrill is hoping for the same.
"Swimming and other exercise was a big problems for me when I was growing up," said Cottrill, a Fairfax County native. "This complex is really like a dream come true. Now we have a place to go."