FIVEPOINT’S COMMITMENT TO
“Sporting venues become gathering places for the community, encouraging us to know more of our neighbors.”
Building a better place for sports
The Orange County Great Park will offer fields of dreams for athletes of all ages and abilities
By Kedric Francis | March 27, 2016
This spring, Santa Margarita High School alum Klay Thompson is preparing for another NBA world championship run as one of the stars of the Golden State Warriors. Mission Viejo High School grad and NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez will join the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos and compete for the starting job. And Carson Palmer, also a Santa Margarita grad, will again quarterback the high-flying Arizona Cardinals.
Orange County has long been home to an array of world-class athletes, including Misty May-Treanor, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in volleyball, and Irvine’s own Olympic champion swimmers Amanda Beard, Jason Lezak and Aaron Piersol.
Future O.C. champion athletes may well hone and display their athletic prowess — or even be discovered — at the Orange County Great Park, an emerging destination for young athletes in the heart of Orange County.
Already a regional attraction for soccer and lacrosse tournaments, the vision of the Great Park as the premier venue for players of all ages and abilities in the region is on its way to being realized. Centrally located in youth sports-rich Southern California, the Great Park is fast building a reputation as a top choice for leagues, games and tournaments.
That’s why Terry Donahue, the football coach at UCLA from 1976-1995 and now a successful Orange County businessman, hosted The California Showcase at the Orange County Great Park recently.
Drawing nearly 600 high school football players from across California and neighboring states, the free event held on the Great Park sports fields was an opportunity for players who had been overlooked in college recruiting to display their talents and to meet 150 coaches from 55 four-year universities and 14 junior colleges.
Players participating in the annual Showcase have earned more than $8 million in financial aid packages since Donahue and his brother Pat became involved with the event in 2013.
“Opportunity is one of the most precious gifts of life,” Terry Donahue says. “How we respond when it is given to us, and how often we can provide it to others, can define our lives.”
One of those opportunities Donahue speaks of is to learn life lessons from participating in sports and recreation. It’s an important part of living in Irvine. The city manages some 40 soccer fields, 41 baseball and softball diamonds and 87 tennis courts, including athletic fields used by 25 nonprofit youth sports organizations, throughout Irvine.
The Orange County Great Park is already a prime location for sports and recreation in the city, and its key role is expanding. Currently, athletics at the Great Park take place on the Sports Park North Lawn, a 19.5-acre sports and recreation field, and the 30-acre South Lawn Sports + Fitness Complex, which opened in 2013. It’s becoming a hotbed of sports in O.C., with everything from soccer leagues to yoga and flamenco dancing classes. But that’s just the beginning.
The future of the Orange County Great Park includes a 176-acre sports park approved by the city and to be built through FivePoint, with soccer fields, volleyball and tennis courts, as well as baseball and softball fields. Construction of the sports park is to begin Spring 2016. The city also has plans for a 185-acre golf course and practice facility.
“Sporting venues become gathering places for the community, encouraging us to know more of our neighbors,” says Lynn Schott, Irvine Mayor Pro Tem. “That the Orange County Great Park will soon include a world-class sports complex to serve generations of young people is a testament to the careful planning and commitment to families that makes Irvine such a great place to live.”
THE DUCKS SKATE INTO IRVINE WITH A COOL
NEW ICE COMPLEX
Irvine is set to become a destination for hockey, figure skating and other ice-centric sports activities with a planned 270,000-square-foot community ice facility at the Orange County Great Park. Planned to debut in January 2018, the new facility will also be home to activities in addition to hockey, including public skating, competitive and recreational figure skating, curling, broomball and community events. Plans include four sheets of ice, one of which is to feature seating for 2,500 spectators, giving the area’s high school hockey leagues a location to host games.
The facility will be managed by THE RINKS Ice Management Team, which currently operates four Southern California ice facilities. The newly formed Irvine Ice Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by H & S Ventures (the owner of the Anaheim Ducks) to promote ice hockey and other ice-based youth sports in Orange County will lease the land on which the new ice facility will be located for an initial term of 30 years, with ownership of the ice facility transferring to the City of Irvine at the end of the lease.