10 Cool things about the sports park
1- MORE THAN SPORTS
It’s a brand new place where all of Irvine can gather.
The new Sports Park is an exceptional place for those involved in or who enjoy youth and adult sports. The first weekend after the opening party saw the soccer fields filled with young women enjoying the sport, with a colorful display of international teams and flags setting the scene. It’s important to remember that, much like other athletic fields and parks in the city, the facilities are open to be enjoyed by all when games and recreation classes aren’t scheduled. Run, take a walk, take a nap, sit in the sun or under one of the large shade trees, have a picnic, teach your child or grandchild to ride a bike, have a game of catch; they’re all activities to enjoy on Irvine’s newest field of dreams.
2- SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Sports and recreation courses for all ages are already being offered at the new Sports Park. Check out the Fall 2017 edition of Inside Irvine, the city’s well-written and produced guide to city programs, news and activities, and note that the publication has an entire section dedicated to recreation activities at the Sports Park, as well as other parts of the Great Park. There are adult recreation lessons, junior and adult tennis and soccer leagues, 10 & under tennis lessons and the Brymer Lewis Tennis Academy. How about something called Crossfit Tennis, combining the popular workout regimen with the court sport? There is also chess, yoga, dance, gardening and many other options to enjoy the Great Park.
3- EASIER ACCESS
Access to, in and through the Great Park has also improved.
Regulars at the Great Park were wowed by the improvements to roads and infrastructure on the way to the Sports Park. The completion and opening of rerouted Marine Way and expanded Irvine Boulevard on either side of the Sports Park are notable. There’s a new roundabout connecting the Great Park Neighborhoods to the Great Park, and other key streets through and around the Great Park, including Flying Tiger and Great Park Boulevard, have been paved and improved. There’s also easy access from existing favorite areas of the Great Park, including the Visitors Center, Carousel and Kids Rock Playground, to the new Sports Park. In fact, seeing how it’s all connected and contiguous, and how much more there is to come, is part of the fun of exploring the new areas.
4- THE SPORTS PARK IS OPEN SPACE
While the Sports Park is an amenity-rich athletic complex, much of it consists of green, open fields. While it’s not a wilderness park, of course, it is a beautiful open space under blue skies in the center of cosmopolitan Irvine. Plus, while driving to the Sports Park, the progress on The Upper Bee and Upper Bosque areas was impossible to miss. The trails are in, heritage trees have been transplanted and landscaping is being added. Irvine City News staffers spotted what looks to be a play area along one of the paths through the 40-acre Bosque area, part of the improvements that will connect the Great Park to Irvine Boulevard. That area will include three tunnels, allowing bicycle and pedestrian trails to cross under major streets between Irvine Boulevard. and Great Park Boulevard.
5- NAVIGATION MADE SIMPLER
A new signage and wayfinding program has been designed, and some of it is already in place. The goal is to implement an effective and comprehensive wayfinding system to make the Great Park simple and easy to navigate.
6- HOTELS AND RETAIL COMING
There will be retail and hotels adjacent to the Sports Park.
The only hint of disappointment ICN staffers overheard during the grand opening events at the Sports Park was that the adjacent retail area and hotel hadn’t been completed as well, which apparently was part of the original plan. But driving to and from the Sports Park, one couldn’t miss the cool branding on the construction fencing around parts of the 72-acre development, where construction will hopefully commence soon. From the Sports Park playground area, one could see how close to the Sports Park the new area preliminarily branded as The Base will be. Plans call for two hotels, stores and restaurants, including a food hall that will be similar to others in Orange County, but reportedly with more indoor/outdoor elements included. Language on land developer FivePoint’s publications says that The Base is “envisioned to incorporate the best of a European style village with alleyways, restaurants, rooftop entertainment, retail and more.” We can only imagine how great it will be for visiting families with kids competing in tournaments at the Sports Park to be able walk to and from the fields right to their hotel rooms and restaurants.
7- BIG TREES!
During construction across the former MCAS El Toro base, FivePoint dug up, boxed and preserved some 1,000 large heritage trees. These full-grown trees, some up to 50 years old and weighing 50 tons, have been replanted throughout the Great Park Neighborhoods, and several gorgeous specimens are already serving as shady sentinels around the Sports Park.
8- ECONOMIC BOON
The Sports Park will mean more tourism dollars for the city. Step in to any Irvine hotel on a weekend and you’ll see kids dressed in their team uniform, ready to go out and play in a soccer, lacrosse, or tennis tournament, or other any number of other sports. With the first phase of the Sports Park, and the phases to follow (not to mention the Great Park Ice Complex under construction nearby), Irvine’s role as a center of California youth sports will grow, drawing more families to the city’s hotels, restaurants and retail.
9- JUST THE BEGINNING
What recently opened is the 53-acre first phase of what will be a 194-acre Great Park Sports Park. From the fields of the first phase of the new Sports Park it’s easy to see the progress being made on the rest of it. The baseball and soccer stadiums are under construction, and grading of what will include six additional soccer fields, 12 baseball and softball fields and large flex field lawn areas large enough to accommodate five more soccer fields is all underway.
10- THE GREAT PARK IS BECOMING JUST THAT
Long after the controversies and delays are forgotten, this generation of Irvine residents will be remembered for being part of the process that took the 1,300-acre former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro site, where thousands served their country and citizens, and transformed it into an amazing community amenity, a Great Park, that will benefit the city and its citizens for generations to come.