About That Great Park…

IT’S GOOD —600,000 VISITORS last year. It’s getting better—an awesome sports complex is coming. But is it great?

The Orange County Great Park in Irvine for years the project we loved to hate—has turned the corner.

Mixing civic and self-interest, Five Point Communities is constructing 688 acres of the Great Park at its own cost, ensuring the 5,000 homes being built there will be park adjacent.

Center stage is the newest element: the 194-acre Sports Park with playing fields, tennis courts, a 2,500-seat stadium, and more scheduled to open late summer. Nearby (and on the same timeline for public use), will be the 75-acre Bee Canyon and bosque (grove of trees) with biking and walking trails, shaded glens for the contemplative visitor, and playgrounds.

Did we mention the 280,000-square-foot community ice facility courtesy of the Anaheim Ducks? Construction began in February. In March, the city approved a 12,000-seat temporary amphitheater, with concerts promised by late summer. Another plus: Thousands of tons of concrete and asphalt from the massive runways have been removed and recycled.

Yet total greatness remains elusive.

The 250-acre Cultural Terrace plods forward with no certain funding or timeline to realize hoped-for libraries, museums, a lake, or a permanent amphitheater. Competing plans for a veterans cemetery continue to stir controversy. A water park to replace Wild Rivers remains a hazy vision at best. Environmental remediation of much of the park’s acreage will take decades.

The view from above in the big, orange balloon at the 1,300-acre former military base reinforces the reality: The Great Park is an enormous undertaking. Stay tuned.

An update to our update: The Irvine City Council approved a negotiating agreement with Wild Rivers to build a 30-acre water park in the Cultural Terrace, with a possible opening in summer 2019. The council also approved an 18-hole public golf course to be completed in 2019, and voted to build the veterans cemetery on another site, near the I-5/I-405 interchange. The Sports Park, along with a new children’s play area, will have its grand opening August 5.

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