The St. James Springfield, VA

Project Category : Health & Wellness

Total Construction Cost : $87,000,000

Total Gross Square Feet : 435,000

Approximate Cost Per Square Foot : $200/sf

How was the facility funded? : Other/Privately funded

Project Description:


Located in a lightly populated industrial zone, surrounded by warehouses and manufacturing facilities, The St. James re-imagines how this brownfield site could be used to bring in a new, engaged population and leading to an economic and social rejuvenation of an underutilized community resource. The design approach to the site offered the opportunity to address the clients goals for a timeless solution, as well as visual interconnectivity throughout the building.

The key decision to siting the facility was to lower the building into the existing grade, allowing for the users to enter at the mid-level. This strategy offers unique views of the large, voluminous spaces, allows disabled patrons to easily access seating at the rear of the seating platforms, and reduces the scale of the large, voluminous athletic spaces to create a welcoming, unintimidating entrance.

The landscaping and hardscaping are clean and simple, setting the stage for the simple, sophisticated, timeless experience within the building. All landscaping is native to avoid the need for irrigation. Hardscaping areas and landscaping areas are located close to the fitness areas, allowing for outdoor fitness during the comfortable weather months.

Functional Planning

The clients program included a broad variety of sports, wellness, nutrition, play, and retail programs. The sports selected were market-driven to include 14 different sports: football, lacrosse, soccer, ice hockey, basketball, volleyball, swimming, baseball, squash, golf, rock climbing, fitness center, strength training and gymnastics. Additional program spaces included a spa, sports medicine clinic, full-service restaurant, a family-focused active entertainment center, a splash park and a child watch.

The building required a clean and clear organizational approach to allow for visibility throughout the spaces and to avoid the sense of disorientation that can occur in larger sports complexes. The major programmatic components are arranged along a north-south Main Street, a two-level, naturally lit circulation spine and an east-west corridor with easy visibility back to the well-lit Main Street. Emphasis on visual connectivity between all spaces establishes and maintains clarity of organization as users navigate the complex. The high visibility between the spaces is intended to inspire young athletes to train like the professionals that they can see through the windows; to watch the intensity and focus with which they train and to be inspired to reach their peak fitness goals.

The design collects the higher-finish spaces restaurant, retail, spa, and fitness club around the entry to provide a wow-factor upon entering the impressive facility. The visual connection through the naturally-lit Main Street to a branded rock-climbing wall at the rear of the facility immediately draws visitors through the entire space. The larger venue team sports football, soccer, lacrosse, ice hockey, basketball and volleyball are housed in two pre-engineered metal building structures located in the rear of the building. Locating them in the back allowed the typically large, unattractive structures to be obscured with a more intimately scaled and inviting bar building and prevented the large spaces from creating sizeable gaps in the building experience.

Most of the programs that focus on the individual from fitness to dance studios are in the front portion of the building, allowing access to north-facing light and allowing the primary building facade to always remain more active and engaged with the community. Daylight becomes the main palette of materials providing a crisp and clean contrast between materials and graphics within the street network.

Exterior Design

The exterior concept was required to have the same rigor as the rest of the building be timeless. Given the enormous size of The St. James, it was important to identify a clear entrance to ensure users knew where to access the building. And due to the enormous size of the building, the solution needed to be cost-effective.

The buildings front facade combines cast-in-place and architectural precast concrete with areas of glass providing northern daylight across a large range of program. Texture and relief in the precast concrete bring a sense of movement and energy. The precast peels away at the buildings center to reveal the vibrant and varied activity within through significant expanses of glass. The massing of the central glass facade and signature roof form is crafted to create a dramatic gateway to wellness.

The pool volume, also on the front of the building, utilizes metal panels that give way at the corners to translucent glazing, allowing natural light to flood the splash park and natatorium without introducing glare.

The back of the building, facing away from the public view, utilizes economical large-scale pre-engineered metal buildings to house the high-volume programs (field house, ice rinks, and court house), an approach that saved significant time and cost, enclosing the building more quickly than a conventional built-up envelope. The exterior design is at once energetic and classic, and far more cost-effective than its appearance would suggest.

Interior Design

A building with as many uses as The St. James could easily take on a theme park aesthetic. That wasn’t the clients desire. They wanted their building to be clean, crisp, and easily understood, while remaining energetic and transparent. Their goal was realized with the organizational concept, introduction of natural light and the careful selection of materials and finishes.

The buildings organization along the north-south and east-west circulation spines created active, naturally-lit avenues for engagement. These circulation spines are well-lit by skylights and clerestory windows, with large expanses of interior glass providing clear visibility into each of the activity spaces, and large wall surfaces acting as canvases for large-format graphics. These circulation spines are intended to be places to gather as much as places to move, with seating groups to promote discussion, studying, and discovery. The transparency of the circulation areas gives the building an immediate sense of clarity, allowing people to quickly identify the sports that are being played in each space and enticing them to try different activities or improve their performance.

The design team honored the clients preference for a minimalist appearance and worked with a limited set of materials and a simple color palette of white, gray, and navy blue. The use of a predominantly white and gray set of materials allow the performance spaces to shine. The synthetic turf field, wood basketball courts, ice sheets, pool, batting cages, squash courts, and fitness equipment they’re all punches of color and activity set against the backdrop of a simple canvas. The team used more color and texture in the restaurant and spa as the goal in those spaces was to make everyone comfortable using the retail amenities from high performing athletes to a parent dropping o? their young child for practice.

Layered onto the desire for a clean aesthetic was the desire for member-only spaces to feel especially premium. Member areas are provided with upgraded finishes including glass-faced lockers, higher quality tile bathrooms, a sauna and steam room, and glass-filled fitness and yoga studios.


Perhaps one of the more remarkable feats of The St. James is the relatively low cost, particularly given the scale of the building and the uniqueness of the program. A facility of this type would typically cost upwards of $300/sf; The St. James construction cost was a mere $200/sf ($87M/435,000 sf).

Large-scale decisions focused on the use of pre-engineered metal buildings for approximately one half of the building area, with the remaining portions constructed of a conventional structural steel frame. The use of the pre-engineered metal buildings, architectural precast concrete, and translucent polycarbonate glazing panels collectively reduced cost and construction schedule due to the high levels of prefabrication and repetition.

The finer details of controlling the cost occurred through the use of modest materials throughout the interior, including polished concrete floors, painted drywall, and painted exposed ceilings, punctuated with richer accents and large format graphics at critical locations.


The St. James Sports & Wellness Complex has created a transformational experience for everyone that enters the front door and a paradigm shift for health, wellness, and recreation facilities. Through the aggregation of a multitude of spaces, clearly organized with a highly visible, naturally-lit circulation system, and appointed with high-quality, simple, sophisticated materials, The St. James has redefined what timeless means for the fitness world.

Floor Plans