LANE ONE: The LA 2028 venue plan continues to shift, along with the rest of Los Angeles

The famed "Planet Ocean" mural on the exterior of the Long Beach Arena (Photo: Alanraywiki via Wikimedia Commons)

Over its history, the one constant in Los Angeles has been change. The city has grown, morphed and been re-shaped by business, culture, its environment – especially earthquakes – and near-continuous population growth.

Having been given the host status for the 2028 Olympic Games some 11 years in advance, it appeared to some that not much was going to happen in L.A. for a long time, but there is plenty of activity. Much of it is being caused by forces which have nothing to do with the Olympic Games, and for which the LA28 organizers are sometimes bystanders. A sampling:

Long Beach Arena

The most recent tumult comes from reports that the City of Long Beach, current site of multiple events in the 2028 plan, continues in talks with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball team to build a new stadium on the massive site of the Long Beach Arena and especially its expansive parking lot located just yards from the Queen Mary and the Pacific Ocean.

The Arena was state-of-the-art when it opened in 1962, but time has passed it by and there is no pro sports team in Long Beach using it now. The adjacent Convention Center and Terrace Theater hosted fencing at the 1984 Olympic Games and the Arena was a lively venue for volleyball.

The original Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Games had no events at all in Long Beach, but as the plan was refined, events were added there. The current plan is to have handball at the 13,609-seat Arena, but there are alternatives that could be found elsewhere in the area.

The remaining sports moved into the Long Beach area could still be held there without too much incident: sailing, open-water swimming and triathlon in the harbor and adjacent Pacific Ocean, BMX cycling – which would also work well inside a new ballpark – and water polo.

The existing lease for Angel Stadium expires after the 2020 baseball season and the Angels have said they would like to make a decision on their future home by the end of 2019.

The decision will obviously be made without regard to any impact on the 2028 Games, but it is also true that the LA28 organizers have other options.

Long Beach Marine Stadium

A possible venue move that is currently under study came from the LA28 organizing committee, which asked the International Rowing Association (FISA) to consider the possibility of moving the rowing events from Lake Perris, an artificial lake in Riverside County east of Los Angeles, to the Long Beach Marine Stadium, site of the 1932 Olympic rowing events.

This was widely reported in February, and while the Marine Stadium site is attractive and much closer to the rest of the sites and could allow the rowers to stay in the Olympic Village at UCLA, there are two obstacles.

First and foremost is the J.H. Davies Bridge, built in 1955 and whose pillars eliminate much of the rowing channel after about 1,700 m, short of the standard 2,000 m course.

FISA chief Jean-Christophe Rolland (FRA) – an Olympic champion in the Coxless Pairs from 2000 — told in February that one solution might be to shorten the racing to 1,500 m:

“Of course we are concerned, because in rowing one of the fundamentals of our sport is that the effort should be at least a minimum of five to six minutes. So obviously, we don’t like to shorten the distance; it’s a different type of effort.

“That said, we have to consider this alternative, and this option and to consider all the aspects of this. You cannot isolate on this particular point (distance), you have to see it in a broader view and in the larger picture of what it means to consider this alternative venue to be at the core of the Games, in terms of legacy, in terms of cost and expenses.”

The other element in play is that the Marine Stadium is located so close to the ocean that the tidal activity could impact the racing. Low tide in Long Beach is early in the morning, so it’s worth asking if having rowers stay at the UCLA Village makes sense, if they will have to be racing at 8 a.m.? Or with such early start times, is it actually necessary to house them closer to the site to cut down on the travel time, as was done in 1984 (at UC Santa Barbara for Lake Casitas), or as planned for Lake Perris?

This process is ongoing, so we’ll hear more about it in the months to come.

Santa Anita Park

One of the major stories in Southern California sports at the moment is the continuing tragedy at Santa Anita Park – home of the 1984 Olympic equestrian events – where 23 horses have died since 26 December of last year.

No one is sure of the cause, and the track was shut down for almost a month for evaluation of the racing surface.

For the LA28 folks, however, there is no need to worry, as the 2028 equestrian events are slated for a temporary facility in the Sepulveda Basin area in the San Fernando Valley area in the northern area of Los Angeles. So the Santa Anita issues don’t impact (yet) the equestrian competitions.

New facilities

The LA28 venue issues are not confined to the questions in Long Beach. There are also new possibilities, possibly coming online in plenty of time for the Games and for which the LA28 organizers would be the beneficiaries without lifting a finger.

First is the expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center, already slated to host fencing, taekwondo, boxing, table tennis and basketball. The new project, now in the early stages, will add another exhibit hall of 180,000-200,000 sq. ft., another multipurpose space of 90-100,000 sq.ft., more meeting spaces, and another massive hotel, with 850 rooms. The exhibit hall could host another sport, as could the multipurpose space, concentrating more facilities in the downtown Los Angeles core, considered highly desirable for the convenience of spectators and news media.

In addition, the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team is planning its own arena, expected to be in Inglewood, to open by 2024. It would seat 18,000 and be a spectacular added Olympic facility, close by The Forum (gymnastics) and the under-construction L.A Stadium at Hollywood Park (archery and ceremonies). The Forum operators are fighting the project, and the ultimate outcome isn’t clear at present. But the Clippers want their own facility, and have the resources to build one somewhere.

At the same time, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is being rebuilt to better accommodate the USC football program and the Banc of California Stadium, now just a year old, is one of the new stars among Southern California venues as the home of the Los Angeles Football Club of Major League Soccer.

Still think the LA28 folks are sleeping? Even without having to build anything, there’s still a lot going on.

Rich Perelman