Residents who advocated for a quarter of a century to replace a large parking lot at the Civic Center with a sports field finally saw the project break ground Wednesday.

Construction on the Civic Center Multipurpose Sports Field began Wednesday with a groundbreaking ceremony attended by local officials and community members. The 2.3 acre sports field, which is located across 4th Street from Santa Monica High School, is slated to open next summer and will provide space for Santa Monicans of all ages to play soccer, rugby and lacrosse.

The $8.6 million field will replace 3.8 acres of the Civic Center parking lot, removing almost 700 parking spaces. The City Council approved the proposal to turn the parking lot into a field in June 2018 after more than a decade of lobbying by Samohi families, who argued that the high school did not have sufficient space for outdoor sports.

“We’ll have a field that will serve many sports, many cultural events and thousands of community members. It’s a very public use of public land,” said Maryanne Laguardia, vice president of the Recreation and Parks Commission.

Laguardia, who pushed for the field for 25 years, said the field’s supporters withstood a multitude of setbacks and delays while fighting to bring the project to fruition.

“The community never gave up,” she said.

The field will also include artistic and educational components that commemorate the history of the Belmar neighborhood, an African-American community that thrived in the first half of the 20th century before the city of Santa Monica took control of it through eminent domain in the 1950s to build the Civic Center.

The city will work with community leaders, artists and historian Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson to create artwork, signage and educational materials that increase awareness of the legacy of the Belmar neighborhood and the impact of its displacement on the greater Santa Monica community, said city spokesperson Constance Farrell.

At Jefferson’s suggestion, the Coastal Commission required that the sports field commemorate the Belmar neighborhood when it approved the project in March.

“Telling the history of the area and the rich legacy of African Americans’ contributions to Santa Monica life helps make the history of the African-American experience in California more visible,” Jefferson said.

The Coastal Commission also required that the city create a transportation demand management plan with the goal of reducing parking demand on the site over the long term. The city will have to monitor parking occupancy at the Civic Center after the field is completed.

The synthetic turf field will be encircled by an eight-foot-high perimeter chain-link fence and 24-foot-high netting. The fencing will be screened by a landscape buffer.

The field will be illuminated by 60-foot-tall lights at night.

The City Council approved in May about $4.8 million with C.S. Legacy Construction for building the field, about $98,000 with AECOM for testing and inspection services and about $417,000 with Simpson & Simpson Management Consulting for construction management services.

madeleine@smdp.com

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