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City Unveils Civic Center Playing Field This Month
By Jorge Casuso
February 11, 2021 -- More than a quarter century after it was first requested, a playing field will finally open at the Civic Center this month across the street from Santa Monica High School.
Historic Belmar Park -- a temporary 3.5-acre multi-purpose sports field complex adjacent to the shuttered Civic Auditorium -- will be unveiled during a virtual grand opening celebration Sunday, February 28 at 3 p.m.
The city's newest park commemorates the Belmar Triangle neighborhood that was home to Santa Monica's black community before it was destroyed in the 1950s to build the historic auditorium.
The field and accompanying public art work "provides a space for recreation and historical reflection on a site where some of Santa Monica’s earliest African American residents lived and contributed to making Santa Monica a vibrant and unique place from 1900 to the 1950s," said Mayor Sue Himmelrich.
The new park replaces a portion of the Civic Center surface parking lot with an $8.6 million, 106,000-square-foot multipurpose sports field.
The park won unanimous Council approval in June 2017, capping a community fight that waxed and waned for years ("Santa Monica Civic Center Playing Field Wins City Council Approval," June 29, 2017).
The concept of a field, first raised in the early 1990s, was included in the 2005 Civic Center Specific Plan.
But plans for construction of a synthetic turf sports field near 4th Street and Pico Boulevard didn't gain momentum until 2015, when the Council unanimously voted to proceed with the project, leading to a groundbreaking in summer 2019.
The Council chose the park's name last August after the California Coastal Commission -- following a suggestion by historian Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson -- made commemorating the lost community a condition for approval.
The site features the Belmar History + Art project, an outdoor exhibition that includes the public art installation “A Resurrection in Four Stanzas” created by artist April Banks and historical panels created through Jefferson's work.
“It is encouraging to be a part of this project dedicated to sharing the history and memories of our community that were overlooked for many years,” said Robbie Jones, a local activist and historian who served on the project's advisory committee.
“This park and the dedicated artwork represent the displaced Santa Monica families and offer a starting point for the healing process of our Black community.”
In addition to the unveiling of the artwork and historical panels, the virtual event includes a Time Capsule burial dedicated to a collection of the area's early history and remarks by Jefferson and Banks.
To register for the virtual grand opening celebration, visit santamonica.gov/historicbelmarpark.
A recording of the virtual event will be rebroadcast on CityTV Channel 16 on Monday, March 1 at 8 p.m., and available on the City's YouTube channel.
To learn more on the Belmar History + Art Project, visit santamonica.gov/arts/belmar.
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