Irvine officials Discuss Renaming Orange County Great Park to include City Name

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

The Orange County Great Park has sports fields, ice rinks and other facilities used by athletes from around the county and beyond, and plans are in the works to add other regional attractions including a water park, children’s museum and Marine Corps aviation museum.

But the park’s roughly 1,300 acres lie within Irvine city limits, and the city funds and operates the park.

So what’s in a name? Irvine city leaders planned to discuss renaming the recreation mecca as the Irvine Great Park during a July 13 City Council meeting.

“I think we’ve been working very hard on branding Irvine and really highlighting what our city has to offer, not only here regionally throughout Orange County, but throughout the state and nationally as well,” said Mayor Farrah Khan, who along with Councilman Mike Carroll, proposed the City Council consider changing the Great Park’s name.

The city has also been seeking corporate or other sponsorship to help offset some of the Great Park’s costs, she said, and some potential sponsors seemed confused as to whether the county owns the park.

From 1943 to 1999, the land that is now the park was the El Toro Marine Corps air base. In the run-up to the base closure, a series of dueling ballot measures attempted to rezone the land as a commercial airport or to thwart any airport plans.

Finally, realizing “you couldn’t beat a bad idea with no idea,” airport opponents pitched a landmark public recreation and open space facility, said Councilman Larry Agran. He was on the council in 2002 when Orange County residents voted – 58% to 42% – in favor of Measure W, which killed the airport plan and rezoned the land for a “multi-purpose central park” as well as schools, cultural institutions and a nature  preserve. The city of Irvine later annexed the land in agreement with county officials.

In the official ballot language of Measure W: “The central location and accessibility of El Toro will provide Orange County’s 3 million residents with an opportunity to enjoy a park on a par with Golden Gate Park and The Presidio in San Francisco, Griffith Park in Los Angeles, and Balboa Park in San Diego.”

Agran said officials at the time “kept referring to it as ‘the great big park,’” and also realized they’d need support from voters around the county to pass Measure W.

They made Orange County part of the name because “we wanted them to know it was for them, as well as the rest of us in south county,” he said.

Former mayor Christina Shea, who lost her seat to Khan in November, called the name change suggestion “poorly thought out” and noted the very brief report in Tuesday’s council agenda doesn’t include a legal opinion on any potential concerns the council should think about.

Plenty of branding has already been done with the “Orange County Great Park” name, Shea said, and she wondered if changing it would affect agreements already signed, such as those by homebuyers in Great Park neighborhoods for the special taxing district that pays for park amenities.

“It just opens up a huge can of worms,” she said.

Khan said she has questions too, and hopes to hear more about the history of the park’s creation on Tuesday. The name change item “is an exploration, it’s a discussion” to see whether it could benefit the city, she said.

For more information on the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, visit DestinationIrvine.com.

Category: Orange County Great Park, Destination Irvine, Mayor Farrah N. Khan