Nine words, and they brought applause from the crowd at the meeting Tuesday of the Lake Forest City Council.
“Congratulations, Lake Forest,” said Mayor Scott Voigts. “We have a sports park coming.”
Those words—and the subsequent claps after a five-second delay—came on the heels of a 5-0 vote in which the City awarded a contract of nearly $36 million to Park West Landscaping of Rancho Santa Margarita to bring the plans for the city’s 86-acre sports park to life.
Park West Landscaping, which built a similar project in Brea, got the bid over four other candidates ranging up to almost $38.5 million:
- Park West Landscaping, $35,938,810
- T.B. Penick, $36,484,086
- Mallcraft, Inc., $38,296,200
- USS Cal Builders, $38,369,471
- Hagopian, $38,492,203
Construction on the park, located on the northwest corner of El Toro and Portola—across from Saddleback Church—is set to begin in April. Voigts, though, had one final concern about the project: The proposed soccer fields are on the smallish side; two fields are 135 feet wide by 270 feet long, and three—including two synthetic turf fields—are 180x330. Voigts recommended they be increased to acccomodate the older players, in the 220x330 range. The optimal size recognized by FIFA—the international governing body of soccer—is 210 to 240 feet wide by 330 to 360 feet long.
Larry Ryan, principal of park designer RJM, said those changes could be made with some alterations, such as a short retaining wall.
“What we are about to venture into will give us the largest active sports complex in Orange County … nearly 60 acres of flat playing fields—which is unheard of in Orange County,” Voigts told the crowd. “We’re very fortunate to be coming forward with this. I can’t tell you how excited AYSO, club soccer, Little League really is to see this. It really is going to bring Lake Forest up; it’s going to make us a destination for all of Orange County. I’m really thrilled to have this opportunity.”
The project also includes two basketball courts, a softball diamond and four baseball diamonds. Voigts was no less excited after the meeting.
"I'm elated we signed the contract," he said. "The bid came in lower than we expected ... We really don't have enough lit fields in Lake Forest. There's a lot of anticipation and excitement."
In other business, the council voted 4-1 to include inspirational moments at its meetings. Although called "invocations," the council opted to dial back the religious nature of the the moment, which could include a moment of silence or an opportunity to express thanks. "God" can be mentioned in a prayer, but not Jesus, Allah, Buddha or other deity. These invocations will be done by councilmembers. Peter Herzog was the dissenting vote.
The City Council voted 4-1 against the so-called Sunshine Ordinance that increases the level of transparency in government. The prevailing opinion of councilmembers was that public access to all items that prevented them from being able to "think out loud" or bounce ideas off people—such as phone records and personal schedules—was too invasive. However, the Council indicated if the public comes across information that is deemed "privileged" by the council and not available, the City should make clear an appeal process to have the information made available. Adam Nick voted for total transparency on all documents, calendars and schedules, applications of appointees, staff evaluations and recommendations, and telephone records made and received by council members.