Where Are Downtown's Basketball Courts and Playing Fields?

DTLA-Last month, a team of city representatives and designers unveiled the latest details and renderings for the First and Broadway Park. The updates show a project with some green space, hardscape pathways and a three-level restaurant complex with outdoor seating. Plans call for the $28 million park ($28 million!) to blend seamlessly into the adjacent Grand Park. 

City representatives said the goal is to create a park that caters to a changing Civic Center, as the community is slated to see a proliferation of office and housing high-rises. FAB Park might indeed serve that audience, but a look at the design sparks to mind something that is sorely missing in Downtown Los Angeles: public recreation facilities.

Updated Designs for First and Broadway Park

This proposed park, like almost every other park in Downtown, lacks the outdoor basketball courts that lure people for pick-up games or league play (Gladys Park in Skid Row has a court, but few people from greater Downtown will go there to ball out). FAB Park doesn’t have volleyball or handball courts. The design is bereft of the fields that could attract legions of softball- and baseball-playing Downtowners in the evenings and on weekends.

Upgrades for Skid Row Parks

We’re singling out FAB Park, but only because the facility, scheduled to break ground next year and open in 2022, is now in the public mindset. The bigger problem is that there are zero plans to create any playing courts or fields — why should Downtown lack something that is taken for granted in many residential neighborhoods?

Public athletic facilities are good for a community. They provide an opportunity to exercise and can bring people together. The recreation centers run by the city and sprinkled across Los Angeles improve every neighborhood where they exist. Yet there is no talk about bringing one to Downtown.

It’s not hard to figure out why. Creating a recreation center requires acres of land, and property values in this particular real estate market are nutty. It’s questionable whether Quimby fees, charged to developers for park creation, could cover the price tag.

Still, in a community of smart people, many of them avid exercisers or sports lovers, there should be options or ways to offset the cost. Maybe the solution is not an entire recreation center, but a few scattered basketball or other courts. The transformation of Pershing Square appears to have ground to a halt, but when it picks up again this seems like a natural location for some public outdoor recreation facilities.

Pushing for a New Pershing Square

Downtown is growing, and is expected to have 200,000 residents by 2040, and not everyone will want to or be able to spend the monthly fees at the litany of local gyms. Plus, sometimes people just want to be together and play a game outside under the L.A. sun or in the cooler evening air.

Downtown needs many things as it builds toward a complete community, and basketball, volleyball and other facilities may not be at the top of the list. But they can pay long-term dividends. Downtown can’t be a place for people to live, work and play if there’s nowhere to actually play.

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