Great Park Projects Shift to Next Phase

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

With many of the sports and nature amenities completed at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, development is shifting to several new buildings, including a firefighting museum and a public safety training center.

The city also was expected to finalize a lease for the new Wild Rivers water park, after signing one in December for a relocated Pretend City Children’s Museum.

In the northwest corner of the park, the planned Fire Museum and Safety Learning Center will include interactive exhibits, displays and information about the history of firefighting and fire prevention education. Its estimated $25 million cost will be raised privately.

The training center, to be built next to the fire museum, will be shared by the Orange County Fire Authority, which has agreed to spend $20.5 million to build it, and Irvine, which is providing the land and will use the center for police training.

With plans including a gun range, emergency operations center and “scenario village” for tactical training, there’s currently nothing like it in the county, Irvine City Manager John Russo said. While the Orange County Sheriff’s Department has training facilities, they’re older, and Irvine police have to drive to far-flung facilities to get required training, he said.

Wild Rivers will be built on 20 acres in the southeast portion of the Great Park — just past the outfields of several of the sports complex’s ball fields — and will include water slides, raft rides and a lazy river expected to be open about 100 days a year. Pretend City will be in the southwest sector, next to the Great Park Ice rinks.

And there’s more to come. In May, the Irvine Planning Commission will get a detailed look at plans for a pool complex that will be the future home of USA Water Polo, a field house for basketball and volleyball and a parking garage between the existing sports complex and Great Park Ice.

Other elements remain up in the air, though. Some residents have long requested a botanical garden, but there’s no clear source of funding for it, and a planned veterans cemetery could be delayed for months, pending a state study of two proposed sites and a possible ballot measure.

The economic shutdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic and resulting budget concerns could slow some Great Park projects, Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said.

“I want to move everything forward, and of course we will,” she said, but the city is in an unprecedented situation.

“We can’t be planning, thinking about spending large amounts of money when we don’t understand the dynamic,” Shea said. “We have to pull back; we have to be responsible.”

Category: Economic Development