West Hollywood’s City Council voted unanimously to move forward with phase two of West Hollywood Park renovations Monday night, including building a new multipurpose recreation center with swimming pools on the roof, and incorporating a National AIDS Monument into the park.
The new five-story, 71,000-square-foot recreation center will be built behind the current five-story library parking deck, where the El Tovar surface parking lot now sits. The facility will have ground-level parking, plus locker rooms, public meeting room space and an interior gymnasium large enough for two basketball courts. Two pools will be on the roof, one for lap swimming and another for recreational swimming. The estimated cost will be $80 million.
The National AIDS Monument will be located near the grand staircase leading from San Vicente Boulevard to the library entrance.
Many local athletes came out to support the plan for the new recreation center, including Jake Mason, who founded West Hollywood Dodgeball, the largest LGBT dodgeball league in the nation. WeHo Dodgeball currently plays its games in the auditorium in West Hollywood Park.
A number of athletes urged the council not to tear down the existing auditorium and swimming pool on San Vicente Boulevard until the new facility is completed. Currently, the plan is to have the new facility built and operational before demolishing the current buildings.
Water polo player Michael Crosby, who came dressed in nothing but a Speedo bathing suit, praised plans for the new pool, and emphasized to the council how much money gay athletic events, including aquatic sports, bring to the city.
Hunter Halinick, owner at the Gym Bar in WeHo’s gay bar district, where many athletes go after dodgeball and volleyball games, estimated 40 percent of his business came from those athletes.
The location for the two swimming pools proved to be a sticking point for the council, which considered six phase II construction options presented by Heery International, an architectural firm hired to do a “feasibility study” on the park for the city.
Councilmembers John D’Amico and Jeff Prang preferred having basketball courts on the roof of the recreation center, and putting the pools at ground level in the northern portion of the park where the two basketball courts are currently located. A separate pool facility would have lowered the overall cost to $75 million.
However, Councilmembers John Duran and John Heilman, along with Mayor Abbe Land favored putting the pools on the recreation center roof. Those pools will be the same level as the three tennis courts atop the five-story parking garage.
“It’s an exciting and prominent location,” said Heilman.
An exact design for the AIDS monument has not been determined, but it will likely also include an amphitheatre. The monument will memorialize the AIDS epidemic from a West Hollywood/Los Angeles perspective, honoring those who died and those who survived, as well as allies who helped in the fight.
Duran, who is HIV positive, said that 10,000 people in West Hollywood died during the epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.
“It’s like a bomb, a nuclear bomb, going off in the center of town,” Duran said.
The park renovations will also see the Tiny Tots preschool building and playground area relocated next to the library. The existing playground area will be transformed into open space.
Construction project manager Dan Adams of Heery International said it would take 12 to 15 months before “ground-breaking” could start and another four years of construction time. The city will issue a “request for proposals” for designs in the coming weeks.
The council asked city staff members to look at options for making the lap pool deeper than the proposed seven feet in the current plan. Twelve feet is needed if the pool is to have diving, but extra support columns in the building’s gym area would likely be needed to support the extra weight of a deeper pool.
The council also suggested the recreation facility should have public restrooms available for clubgoers returning to their cars in the parking deck late at night. Heilman noted that restrooms might prevent people from urinating in the stairwells of the parking deck, a problem he has complained about in the past.