In the midst of the months-long controversy regarding the authorized representative for Council District 10, Herb Wesson has remained totally focused on delivering services for the area’s constituents.
Since his appointment in February as the CD 10 voting member on the L.A. City Council, Wesson has hit the ground running by participating in the city’s $12 billion budget process, empowering staff to respond to an array of residential concerns and ensuring the district’s critical projects continue on track.
One of the most high profile of those projects is the $50 million renovation of the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex at Rancho Cienega Park, which re-opened on June 28 with a gala community celebration. Since Wesson devoted more than a decade to upgrading the facility during his previous tenure as Councilmember from 2005 to 2020, he gleefully welcomed citizens to the complex during the open house and tour.
“This is something that for all of these years I would put money aside, put money aside, put money aside, because at the end of the day, this is almost a $50 million dollar project” Wesson said. “It’s probably one of the greatest investments in recreation and parks in recent time, and it’s in our community. It’s state-of-the-art, and it’s ours!”
Stressing the significance of the new complex being located in South L.A., he noted, “Equity matters – and it is our responsibility to make sure that communities of color have access to clean and safe parks and outdoor spaces. Not only will our adults and seniors have access, but my heart is overjoyed to know that our kids will have the best of what this city has to offer.”
The Obama Sports Complex offers a host of amenities over 24 acres such as an indoor gym with two high school basketball courts, which was funded by Steve Ballmer Foundation and the L.A. Clippers. A major highlight is a mezzanine walking track and a new Olympic-size indoor pool.
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“Our state-of-the-art swimming pool is so big and it is structured it in such a way where you have two shallow areas where young kids can be taught to swim, while seniors can also participate in aerobics and things of that nature and there is a device that can take seniors in wheelchairs and lift them in or out of the pool,” explained Wesson.
“Also, because the pool is Olympic –sized, we will be in a position to train Olympic athletes from our area so that they can complete on the world stage.”
Other features include a fitness annex, technology center, a multi-use community room, and staff offices. The project also meets the City-mandated LEED silver certification level, and can potentially exceed that mandate with electric vehicle (EV) charging stations being installed as well as a robust greywater re-use and stormwater infiltration system.
“This is our private country club and it doesn’t stop there,” insisted Wesson. “We’re going to redo the tennis courts, put in in brand new playground equipment and redo the football field. This will be magnificent facility.”
The Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex is located on Obama Boulevard and the councilmember said the naming stems from his longtime relationship with former President Obama as well as Michelle Obama’s support for exercise.
“The Obama name has a lot of significance. When then-Senator Obama was first running for president, he called me and asked to kick-off his California campaign in my district,” recalled Wesson, who added that the 2008 rally was held at Rancho Park.
“This was the first time that Barack Obama officially told California and Angelinos that he was a candidate for president. Also, we gave the facility the Obama name because First Lady Michelle Obama was huge into physical fitness. So who are better role models than those two?”
Also on Wesson’s list of role models is actress and businesswoman Marla Gibbs, who previously owned and operated the Vision Theatre in Leimert Park. Nearly $40 million has been invested to upgrade and rehabilitate the playhouse and community center.
“Three councilmen – Mark Ridley-Thomas, Bernard Parks and myself – have been trying to create a state-of-the-art facility over the years and it should finally be opening in 2023,” said the councilmember.
The facility will contain a rotating stage as well as rooms to hold community events. Classes in acting, scenic design, and other aspects of theatre arts are planned as well for children and adults.
“I’m very excited to have an opportunity to be here as we’re finalizing these two projects (Obama Sports Complex and Vision Theatre) that I’ve worked so hard on for a lot of years,” said Wesson, who also acknowledged the debate surrounding his appointment.
“I don’t understand the controversy, but there’s nothing I can do about that. So, I have to keep focused on delivering services to the people in this district,” he said.
“All I’m doing is using my skills, knowledge and my experience to do this job to try to deliver the services that the people in this community want, need and expect. I drown out the noise. I stay focused and I’m going to do this until this thing sorts itself out one way or the other,” Wesson shared.