In fall 2008, the city broke ground on the “MacArthur Park Improvement Project.” More specifically, the city fenced off and dug into the dry ground pictured here – the two fields marked out on the packed dirt served a range of leagues, including a large children’s league and a women’s league that was the subject of a June 2008 Los Angeles Times story (Guatemalan Women Kick Aside Constraints in the U.S.) Tens of thousands of people have been kicking up dirt in this spot over the years.
As the improvement project has begun to take shape, people in the neighborhood have been wondering what happened the long-promised soccer field. The story had been that the city was replacing the dirt with an artificial turf field. From a November 2008 LA Parks press release:
A 37,000 square-foot synthetic field will replace the existing dirt field. When completed the new field will be added to the half dozen synthetic turf playing fields managed by the Department.
An October 2008 Los Angeles Times story on the temporary displacement of the leagues using the dirt field reports that
The new synthetic field promises to be a hit when it reopens next summer. But for now, the upheaval and lack of field space elsewhere has alarmed players and upset team rosters.
Well, folks have become more alarmed as this huge field has taken shape: a gently sloped, bean shaped expanse of green has replaced the dirt field. There are no lines on it. It is big – big enough to house a field, certainly, but with no markings league play is impossible – in fact, it is hard to call it a “soccer field” – if by that one means a field on which refereed league matches are played. That LA Times story and much of the press surrounding this “reconstruction” promise a return of league matches, but this seems not to be the case at all.
When I phoned the engineering department for Parks & Rec, I was told there was no plan to put lines on the field, and that it wasn’t in fact being called a soccer field, but a “synthetic meadow.” A spokesperson from contractor Parkwest Landscape, Inc said that while the turf is “top of the line” (featuring heat-resistant flexsand), the field is unlined and has gentle slopes (I can’t see this slope, however, from the above photograph, culled from A View from A Loft.)
A 2007 Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks memo describes the MacArthur Park Improvement Project’s plans for the fields in the following terms:
Expected improvements include reconstruction of an existing dirt soccer field with artificial turf, installation of…light poles approximately 50 feet in height around the soccer field….(Dec 26, 2007/p. 9)
But an October NBC news report identifies the space as “MacArthur Park Synthetic Field and Meadow,” and this same space is described on Ed Reyes’s own blog as “a synthetic children’s meadow.”
In the incoherence of public discourse on this space, we see something of the deeply conflicted place of f