Council will review plans for Memorial park next week

Santa Monicans can expect brand-new sports fields and better amenities at Memorial Park — but not until the mid-2020s.

On Tuesday, the City Council will review plans for the renovation and expansion of Memorial Park, which contains Santa Monica’s most-used baseball and softball fields and the city’s only public gym and skate park. The project will combine Memorial Park and the adjacent, 2.9-acre city-owned former Fisher Lumber site into a 13-acre park to meet an increasing demand for recreational activities, city staff said.

City Hall earmarked the park for redevelopment in 1997, but did not start work on the project until 2018, when it hired an architectural consultant to conduct a feasibility study and solicit community input before drawing up a master plan.

Construction on the 13-acre park is projected to take 4.5 to 6 years in total and cost between $100 and $116 million, or about $7.7 million to $8.9 million per acre.

The 6.2-acre Tongva Park, which opened in 2013 after two years of construction, cost $42.3 million, or about $6.8 million per acre. The park came in $7 million under budget.

After an estimated 2.5 to 3.5 years of construction, Memorial Park will have seven new diamond sports fields and four will be able to accommodate simultaneous games. Of the six fields currently located at the park, only two allow teams to play at the same time.

Those first two phases of construction will also add a walking loop with exercise stations, a larger skate park, 49 new parking spaces in a covered parking lot for a total of 128 spaces, tennis and pickleball courts and a central community hub with a children’s play area, restrooms, concessions, storage and a small office.

Trees, landscaping and a bike path will be added along the perimeter of the park, which would be expanded into portions of 16th Street and Colorado Avenue, resulting in the loss of 37 metered street parking spaces.

In the third and final phase of construction, which would take 2 to 2.5 years, existing buildings that house the Santa Monica Police Activities League (PAL), the Memorial Park gym, community meeting rooms, staff offices and a small fitness gym will be replaced with a community recreation center.

The two-story building will integrate the functions of the existing buildings into one facility.

The Recreation and Parks Commission unanimously supported the proposal for the renovation and expansion of the park, but asked that the design team consider keeping an off-leash dog run at the park, adding more trees and incorporating shade elements for the playground.

The commission also asked that the design team examine how sun and shade will affect players’ vision in determining the position of the diamond sports fields and add bullpens, warm up areas, dugouts, seating, public address systems and score booths at the fields.

Residents who use the dog run have also advocated to keeping a dog run in the expanding park because dog parks do not exist in Santa Monica north of the I-10 freeway.

Locals also said during the community outreach process that the redesign should prioritize safety, particularly in the park’s bathrooms and perimeter. Little League teams have reported finding excrement and syringes in the park and seeing people living or prostituting themselves in the park’s bathrooms.

The City Council will meet Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1685 Main St.

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