Eight tennis courts are painted, fenced and lighted. Six rectangles of grass are evolving into soccer fields. And the steel-and-concrete stands for a 26,000-square-foot soccer stadium are rising from the ground.
Great Park developer FivePoint Communities gave the media a progress report Tuesday on the 175-acre sports park it's building for the city of Irvine, saying tennis, soccer and beach volleyball facilities will be completed early next year.
Openly alluding to conflicts during a decade of delays, city and FivePoint officials said they now can point to "significant progress" in bringing the 14-year-old Great Park dream to reality.
"After years of little more than studies and marketing and lots of parties out here and little more being accomplished, we can finally see the scale and breadth of what is being delivered for the use and enjoyment of our residents," Irvine Councilwoman Christina Shea told a small gathering of reporters and dignitaries at the sports park site.
"This sports complex will be the anchor of what promises to be the heart of Orange County," she said.
The Great Park and 9,500 new homes are taking shape on the former El Toro Marine base in south Orange County. Lennar Homes and its partners bought the 3,700-acre base in 2005, donated 1,347 acres to Irvine for the park and - through its spinoff, FivePoint - began building homes around the future parkland boundaries.
But after funding for park development fell through, the city and FivePoint reached a deal allowing FivePoint to build just over half the park at its own expense.
The gigantic sports complex along the Great Park's southern boundary - roughly 15 acres bigger than Anaheim's Disney Resort - will include 80 fields for baseball, softball, basketball, rugby, cricket and lacrosse, plus a number of small "championship" stadiums.
FivePoint is spending $250 million for development of 688 acres of parkland, almost $75 million more than it is committed to spend, company officials said.
"Way before we came on the scene, a promise was made to the community to build what was going to become the new metropolitan park in Orange County," said FivePoint CEO Emile Haddad. "Whether it's a promise made by us or whether we take on the responsibility of a promise made by someone else, we will not rest until that promise gets delivered on."
Construction is underway on the first of the sport park's four phases, a 53-acre segment that includes 24 tennis courts, six soccer fields, five volleyball courts and a playground plus three "championship" stadiums for soccer, volleyball and tennis. Phase 1 should should be done by the first quarter of 2017, said Steve Churm, FivePoint spokesman.
Forty-four of 170 jumbo lighting poles already are installed.
A baseball complex and a softball complex are expected to be done by the first quarter of 2018, Churm said. Haddad has previously said the entire sports park could be finished by the fall of 2019.
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