There’s No Place Like Home Base, But Gay Sports Leagues Can’t Find it in WeHo

New player Travis Christy of Pitches and Ho’s slides right into second.
Varsity Gay League Kickball

[dropcap]K[/dropcap]ick, swing, dribble, spike—and drive. For West Hollywood residents who play in the area’s LGBT sports leagues, practices and games mean traveling to parks in Culver City, Glendale, Burbank, Studio City or other parts of the greater Los Angeles area.

Organizers of many of the more than a dozen gay leagues say they’d rather make WeHo home base. But the city doesn’t have adequate facilities for their sports or won’t make its parks available to them. The organizers, some of whom declined to let their names be used for fear of upsetting city officials, said that West Hollywood would be an ideal location for their games, given that 40 percent of the city’s population is composed of gay men. WeHo is also very walkable, which means players could leave their cars parked in a city garage and walk to a nearby restaurant or bar after a game.

Ray Robles, president of the Los Angeles Volleyball Organization (LAVO), said that while West Hollywood is a center of gay life, athletes who have to play elsewhere don’t want to drive to WeHo after a game and find parking again just to go to a restaurant or bar for an after-game drink.

West Hollywood does have some sports facilities that it makes available to gay teams. West Hollywood Aquatics (WH20) uses the pool at West Hollywood Park, for example. The park’s cramped auditorium is also used for indoor sports, however, with little or no space for observers. WeHo Dodgeball games take place there on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Many Wednesday night volleyball games are held in the auditorium as well. LAVO often must hold its events elsewhere, however, because the auditorium isn’t always available.

weho dodgeball summer tuesday 2013
WeHo Dodgeball

“We would love to be in WeHo 100 percent of the time,” said Robles.

Will Hacker, founder of Varsity Gay League (VGL), which offers several sports including a popular kickball league, said he has contacted the city about holding kickball games in West Hollywood but hasn’t been able to get space for the games.

“The city has no sports fields that can be reserved for league play,” said Olivia Walker, recreation services manager for West Hollywood, who declined to be interviewed in person or over the telephone for this story and responded to questions only via email. “Both West Hollywood Park and Plummer Park maintain a full special events calendar which is reserved and permitted through both the Recreation and Special Events divisions.”

While that calendar includes no gay sports leagues other than the swimming team and dodgeball and occasional kickball matches, it is full of sports for children, who make up only 4.6 percent of WeHo’s population according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

City programming for the preschool set includes “Baby Boogie” for children age 6 months to 2 ½, “Kidz Love Soccer” for children ages 2 to 6 at Plummer Park;, and “Mommy/Daddy & Me Soccer” for children 2 to 3 ½ at Plummer Park.

There are also activities for older kids. There’s tee-ball (ages 4 to 7) and a “Friday Night Co-Ed Dodgeball League” (ages 9 to 14), both at West Hollywood Park. “WeRun WeHo” is for ages 9 to 18 years old at Plummer Park. The “West Hollywood Gators” swim team offers separate programs at West Hollywood Park for those 10 and under, 11 to 15 and 16 to 18. And there’s a triathlon team for ages 8 to 17.

West Hollywood and Plummer are the only city parks large enough to accommodate sports, although Plummer Park’s four acres are largely covered with community buildings and tennis courts. West Hollywood Park has 5.3 acres, much of it open green space. It was home to a baseball field that was paved over for a parking lot in 2009 when construction began on the new library. When the first phase of the park redesign was completed in 2012, that parking lot was eliminated in favor of the open grassy area and the present basketball courts.

West Hollywood Park
West Hollywood Park

When the park was closed for that initial redesign, the West Hollywood Soccer Club lost the space it previously used for tryouts and practices. The soccer club’s Jamie Gin said it took a couple of years before the club was able to find a new location: at West Adams High School at 1500 W. Washington Blvd. in Los Angeles. Gin said that it would be great to return to WeHo, which offers good “dine and drink” options after games.

Plummer Park, while smaller than West Hollywood Park, is much busier. According to city statistics, an average of 6,700 people a week use Plummer Park — 1,675 people per acre on the average day. By contrast, West Hollywood Park attracts only 3,800 people a week on average, or 717 per acre on the average day. Seven of the city’s tennis courts are in Plummer Park and three are in West Hollywood Park. The city recently gave a contract to a firm called iTennis to manage the tennis courts.

Plummer Park
Plummer Park

With the city recently granting a contract to LPA Inc., an Irvine-based architecture firm, for the design of the $80 million second phase of the park’s redevelopment, some gay sports league organizers are hopeful that they eventually will have fields to play on in West Hollywood. City Councilmember Jeffrey Prang, in fact, asked that LPA try to work a “multipurpose ball field” into the design. He noted that there is no place in the city for people to play baseball, softball or soccer.

The second phase does include a recreation center with a gymnasium that will house two basketball courts and a rooftop swimming pool, a new children’s playground area and expanded green space. But whether it will include fields where the gay sports leagues can play seems unlikely.

Lisa Belsanti, acting manager of the city’s Public Information Office, said the city is “just beginning the programming and design phases” of the park and that the approved master plan “does not call for a regulation ball field of any sort.”

“Instead it calls for a large flat multipurpose open space area again to be multi-functional in nature,” she wrote in an email to WEHOville. “It is not currently the intent to have that area programmed for a specific sports use but rather for a variety of sports and other recreational uses.”

That means the gay sports leagues are likely to continue playing outside West Hollywood. Some are close. Big Gay Frisbee, for example, in Poinsettia Park at 7341 Willoughby Ave. in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles Flag Football at Fairfax High School on 7850 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles.

But for many gay teams and their West Hollywood athletes, Culver City, Glendale, Burbank and Studio City will continue to their home away from home.

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Jordan Curry
3 years ago

Oh wow, I had no idea that they had gay kickball. I’m a straight guy and I think that pretty cool. An event to support gay rights and to show we’re all equal. It makes me wonder if there other gay sports events going on.

Sinla
Sinla
6 years ago

Poinsettia park has a huge open green space… If they ever take down the fence around it…

JESS K Registered Voter
JESS K Registered Voter
6 years ago

“city recently granting a contract to LPA Inc., an Irvine-based architecture firm” So! no architecture design firms in West Hollywood? We have to go behind the “Orange Curtain”? What GENIUS made that decision? Some GENIUS that designed a “City of West Hollywood Park” with NO SPORTS Facilities???? I think we should be thinking about sweeping changes in City Council, City Manager, and some City Staff! That “damage” has already been done to North San Vicente. How about protecting the sports in the “redesign” of Plummer Park. Are the “picnic tables” “more important” than sports facilities? What a trance way to… Read more »

Steve
Steve
6 years ago

We are a tiny, dense city. The fact that we have 2 large parks plus a handful of pocket parks (Formosa, King’s Rd., etc.) is pretty amazing. Sports leagues like football and softball require multiple playing fields to acommodate multiple teams at once. Without this ability, a single playing field is largely a waste of space. This is why the Gay Football league plays in Sherman Oaks and the softball league plays in Whittier. Poinsettia is sort of equipped for these leagues but look at the size of their open fields….much larger than what’s available at West Hollywood Park. And… Read more »

Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs
Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs
6 years ago

Why can’t we have activities for kids AND adult leagues? The problem isn’t one or the other. The problem is that the City of West Hollywood lacks adequate space for leagues. It would rather pander to a bunch of one percenters on the East Side who want ZERO change at Plummer Park than build sports fields there. It would rather focus on robo garages and rainbow crosswalks than more drunk trolleys. There is real demand for space for these activities. The City Council should pay attention.

Tyme
Tyme
6 years ago

There is a big difference between a “gay” sports league and a weho sports league. Just because they are gay or LGBT friendly doesn’t mean that they are based in this city. Or that they pay taxes to build and maintaing these fields and facilities. While 4.6% of the city is children a simple search of the secretary of state website shows that almost none of these organizations that are mentioned are based in or incorporated in the city of west hollywood. They are all in the city of LA. Some of them are not even that close to home.… Read more »

Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs
Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs
6 years ago

Two words: Plummer Park. Let’s put fields in there. It’s a great central location and would be really convenient for most of the leagues. Rather than indulging in the 1 percenters who want to maintain it as is, let’s put that park to real use. The second phase of WeHo Park should also be amended to include ball fields. And hey, why don’t we create a NEW park someone where by tearing down some of the decrepit housing on the east side and turning it into a ball fields park. Weho Sports Leagues are some of the most vibrant activities… Read more »

luca d
luca d
6 years ago

it’s racist

mikey
mikey
6 years ago

What a shame……the weho soccer team must travel to west adams….
I’m so sick of hearing about Green Space….I would rather watch and
cheer for a Weho sports team.
Green space ……..boring…boring…boring.

Ben McCormick
Ben McCormick
6 years ago

Has anyone looked into how many of our City’s 4.6 percent population of children make use of any of the City’s numerous athletic programs for them? Maybe a sport’s complex and playing fields would be a good use for the Tara property?

90069
90069
6 years ago

It’s a serious issue that the City focuses resources on kids activities yet avoids providing space and programing for gay athletes considering they make up such a large portion of the community. Not only is it good for recreation but would help boost West Hollywood’s ability to support healthy living and “drug free” activities.

John McCormick
John McCormick
6 years ago

But the city is more than happy to collect revenue from these teams who hold fundraisers and social events at West Hollywood bars. I love my dog, but it’s sad when he has more places to play then humans do in Weho.