As anyone who has followed the history of the Orange County Great Park knows, its development has not always been smooth or something to be proud of.
In fact, for far too many years, the Great Park was a symbol of gross mismanagement and government gone very wrong, with allegations of corruption and massive waste, and with little to nothing to show for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of public dollars except a balloon, a carousel, and great expanses of dirt, dust, and debris.
However, since I have joined the Irvine City Council — and been appointed Vice Chair of the Orange County Great Park by my colleagues — we have succeeded in making a tremendous, positive turn-around in the Great Park’s development. Real, substantial, and exciting progress has been made.
As the Orange County Register recently wrote, ” If you haven’t visited the Orange County Great Park – where you see that big orange balloon from Interstate 5 – in the past few years, you may be surprised by the amount of construction going on and how quickly things are getting built there.”
We are now fulfilling the promise of a truly Great Park that all of us can feel proud of and enjoy!
Here are some of things we’ve already accomplished:
- Live music returned to Irvine as new 12,000-seat live music amphitheatre opened in the Great Park.
- Groundbreaking for new Anaheim Ducks’ 270,000 square-foot community ice skating and practice facility in the Great Park (largest public ice skating facility in the West).
- Opened new 5,000-seat Championship Soccer Stadium and numerous other sports fields and facilities in the first phase of 194-acre Great Park Sports Park, the largest of its kind in Orange County — larger than Disneyland and Disney California Adventure combined.
- Great Park Sports Complex presented with the Orange County Business Council’s Turning Red Tape into Red Carpet Award for Public-Private Partnership.
- Great Park Championship Stadium became home of Orange County Soccer Club, Orange County’s only professional soccer team and official affiliate partner of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) of Major League Soccer (MLS). Orange County SC is a part of the United Soccer League (USL), the fastest growing Division II professional soccer league in the world comprised of 34 teams across the United States.
- Reached agreement with Wild Rivers for a new 30-acre water park in the Great Park.
- Begun construction of a 2.5 mile nature corridor at the eastern end of the park. It is intended to be a pathway for bobcats, coyotes, California gnatcatchers and other wildlife species to move safely between the Santa Ana Mountains and the coast. The corridor, accessible only to wildlife, is expected to open mid-2019.
- 101 acres of Great Park Sports complex completed, including six new soccer/lacrosse fields; a natural turf flex field that can accommodate four additional soccer fields, four basketball courts available for drop-in use, and more.
At our last Irvine City Council meeting, the Great Park’s Interim Director, Pete Carmichael, presented us with the latest Great Park Progress Report, which I want to share with you.
- Sports Park Phase 2: completed and opened June, 2018.
- Sports Park Phases 3 and 4: expected turnover September, 2018.
- Bee and Bosque Trail Areas: awaiting turnover by partner FivePoint.
- Ice Complex: opening expected by end of 2018.
- Western Sector Street Improvements: construction in progress; phase 1 completion expected Fall 2018.
- Fire Station 20: opened on July 19, 2018.
Forward Planning Updates:
- Cultural Terrace: FivePoint contracting for Phase 2 consultants.
- Cultural Terrace: Preliminary tenant outreach.
- Cultural Terrace: parking plan developed to include parking stalls, entrance plaza and landscaping.
- Water Park: CEQA studies in progress.
- Water Park: land appraisal underway.
- Water Park: new lease terms coming to City Council next month (August).
Further Updates and News:
- Championship Soccer Stadium has held 17 tournaments; played 112 games; hosted 75 teams; and has had attendance of 95,625.
- Soccer Fields have held 18 tournaments; 11,750 practices; 4,818 games; hosted 6,330 teams, and has had attendance of 411,330.
- Upcoming Soccer Events: GSAC Conference Championships; NAIA National Championships.
- Tennis Center has held 884 tournaments; 722 league matches, and given 1,745 lessons.
- Movies on the Lawn Series: more than 9,000 visitors.
- OC Steam Fest: 5,000 visitors.
- UCI Anti-Cancer Walk: 3,500 visitors.
- Irish Fair and Music Festival: 6,500 visitors.
- Opening of Baseball and Softball facilities.
- Irvine Global Village Festival — located for the first time in the Great Park!
Of course, there is still more to do. As I have said, while I am proud of all that we’ve recently accomplished at the Great Park, the time has come to focus on creating what should be the real jewel of the Great Park: The Cultural Terrace. I have long been a strong advocate for botanical gardens and museums in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace.
You can positively impact the next phase of development by the Great Park Cultural Terrace by becoming involved in the grass-roots organizations that are working toward a Great Park botanical garden and a natural history museum:
You can also help by signing this petition to urge the creation of a natural history museum in the Great Park.
In addition, I remain strongly committed to the creation of veterans cemetery in Irvine. Councilmember Christina Shea and I have proposed to build a veterans cemetery in the Great Park on land now designated for a golf course.
This proposal would be both cost-saving and time-saving, and locates the veterans cemetery squarely within the Great Park and the former Marine Air Base, yet not next to neighborhoods and schools.
The proposal does not involve a land exchange, and the location of the cemetery would not open other areas to potential commercial development, add additional homes, or cause any increase in traffic.
Click HERE to read the proposal.
As you can see, we’ve accomplished a lot. I am very proud of our residents, our city staff, and our community partners for all we’ve done so far, and I look forward to continuing to fulfill the promise of a truly Great Great Park!
Be sure to check out the Great Park Calendar of Events so you can keep up-to-date on what’s coming up next!