LOS ANGELES, July 28, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Thirty years to the day after he ascended the Coliseum steps and lit the flame to open the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, track and field legend Rafer Johnson joined with fellow Olympians, city leaders and young soccer players in Griffith Park to announce the $10.5 million renovation of the John Ferraro Athletic Fields, the city's largest soccer facility.
The project will transform the 26-acre site into a state-of-the-art soccer complex, able to serve nearly 340,000 players each year – triple its current capacity – without expanding its footprint. More than 35,000 youth in local soccer programs live within minutes of the site, and are expected to benefit from the brand-new synthetic turf fields, updated lighting, improved parking, concessions and more.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, project backers announced that $3.5 million has already been raised, including $1 million from the LA84 Foundation and $1 million from the City of Los Angeles. Supporters are reaching out to public, private and foundation donors to provide the rest.
"Thirty years later, the impact of the 1984 Olympic Games lives on in projects such as Ferraro Fields," said LA84 Foundation President Anita DeFrantz, whose organization was endowed with surplus funds from the 1984 Games that are used to support local youth sports programs. "Those Olympic Games were fueled by a successful public-private partnership, and we look forward to once again partnering with generous donors across the region to open more opportunities for our youth to participate in sports."
The Ferraro Fields renovation project will significantly expand the site's capacity for practices, games and tournaments; currently, the conditions of several of the fields render them unusable for some team and tournament play throughout the year. The renovation will restore the fields for regulation use, and will broaden the range of uses, including local team practices, games and tournaments.
The existing collection of seven dirt fields will be converted to synthetic turf. Other physical improvements will include updated lighting, walking paths, picnic tables, playground equipment and ADA-compliant restroom and concession facilities. Finally, the renovation will improve existing parking infrastructure, allowing visitors to park safely in the lot rather than on the street flanking the facility.
Several of the most iconic athletes from 1984 Olympic Games celebrated this city-wide commitment to transforming the run-down fields into a state-of-the-art facility for hundreds of thousands of Angelenos. Four-time Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis, 400-meter hurdling champion Edwin Moses and cycling silver medalist Nelson Vails joined Johnson to participate in the dedication ceremony.
"This project will provide a safe, state-of-the-art venue for hundreds of thousands of kids and adults from all over the city to enjoy— a fitting tribute to the fine athletes who competed here in Los Angeles 30 years ago and a reminder of the enormous benefits the '84 Games continue to bring to our city," said Johnson, who holds the gold medal for the decathlon from the 1960 Olympic Games.
The project will be built in two phases, with the four smaller fields designed for use by youth leagues slated for completion in July 2015.The three remaining fields will be large enough to accommodate adult play, and can also be converted into a larger number of youth fields, further expanding the number of players who can make use of the site. The expected final completion date is July 2016.
City officials praised the public-private partnership that will benefit local youth as well as soccer players from across the city. "Thanks to a dream team led by the LA84 Foundation, our city's rich and vibrant Olympic history has enabled us to pass the torch to the next generation of athletes," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "It is my hope that some of the young Angelenos playing here at Ferraro Fields will be part of future Olympic and Paralympic Games in the years ahead."
Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes the site and who played a lead role in securing the city's funding for the project, pointed to the lasting legacy of his predecessor, John Ferraro. "Councilman Ferraro was instrumental in bringing the 1984 Olympic Games to Los Angeles, and he would be proud to see that we are carrying forward the spirit of those Games today by making these soccer fields accessible to so many Angelenos."
Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell, whose district includes many nearby neighborhoods, noted the environmental benefits of the renovation: by installing artificial turf, the facility will cut its water usage by 95 percent. "These upgrades will save our city 9.5 million gallons of water per year," he said. "Given the drought conditions and calls to reduce water consumption statewide, this will be a huge step forward for this facility and for Los Angeles as a whole."
"Today, thousands of young Angelenos are greatly in need of adequate facilities for soccer practices and tournaments, and incur huge costs to travel long distances," said Michael Shull, General Manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks "This beautiful new complex will be easily accessible to leagues in the heart of our city, allowing them to practice and compete in their own neighborhood."
Among the organizations that have committed financial support to date are the Wasserman Foundation, Mr. Gregory Annenberg Weingarten and the Annenberg Foundation, the Cal South Foundation and the Andy Barth Family Trust. The remainder of the funds will be raised from private foundations, corporations, individual donors and public agencies. "Today's event illustrates the wide support this project already enjoys, and we hope that many more private and public partners will step up and join us in seeing it through to completion," said Barry A. Sanders, Chairman of the LA Parks Foundation, which will serve as the project manager for the renovation along with the Department of Recreation and Parks.
About the LA84 Foundation
The LA84 Foundation was established to manage Southern California's share of the surplus from the successful 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The Foundation received an endowment of $93 million. Since it began operations in 1985, it has invested $220 million back into the communities that supported the Games, supporting more than 3 million youth in the eight Southern California counties of Los Angeles, Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura. Its headquarters is the historic Britt House near downtown Los Angeles where it houses the world's premier sports library and meeting facilities. The Foundation provides grants to youth sports organizations, manages programs, including a coaching education program, and convenes numerous forums for the exploration of the most pressing issues in sport. For more information, please visit www.la84.org.
About the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks
The Department of Recreation and Parks maintains over 16,000 acres of parkland with over 430 neighborhood and regional parks, 184 recreation centers and facilities, 368 children's play areas, 321 tennis courts, 256 ball fields, 31 senior centers, 13 golf courses, nine dog parks, 21 skate parks, 61 swimming pools, 12 museums and an urban forest of one million trees and 92 miles of hiking trails. The Department also provides after school enrichment programs for children and teens including music, dance, and athletic programs. For more information about the Department of Recreation and Parks, please visit www.laparks.org.
About the Los Angeles Parks Foundation
Since its founding in 2008, the Los Angeles Parks Foundation has made more than $8 million in grants to city park projects. Among its accomplishments are building six walkable neighborhood parks, constructing the first All Access Ball Field in Los Angeles County, re-establishing a mounted patrol unit in Griffith Park, and adding a range of amenities, including benches and shade structures, at a variety of other sites. The foundation's website – www.laparksfoundation.org – encourages donations to benefit specific neighborhood parks and provides access to Adopt-A-Park and Donate-A-Bench programs.
SOURCE LA84 Foundation