Mayor Gives Update on 2028 Olympic Projects

By: 
Sean Belk

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia provided local residents and aspiring community leaders with an update last month on the progress of several capital improvement projects and other efforts set to prepare the city for co-hosting the Summer Olympic Games in 2028.

During a meeting hosted by Leadership Long Beach on Oct. 25 at the Long Beach Petroleum Club, Garcia gave a “preview” of what will be the city’s third time co-hosting the series of international competitive sporting events with the City of Los Angeles, following its participation in 1932 and 1984.

The mayor’s fourth presentation comes nearly a year after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially awarded Los Angeles the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games while awarding Paris the 2024 Olympic Games at a meeting in which Garcia was in attendance in Lima, Peru last September.

“We have an exciting opportunity to begin this process preparing for 2028,” said Garcia, a graduate of the Long Beach youth leadership program. “What’s exciting for Long Beach is that we get to showcase our city on the international stage once again in a much bigger way.”

The mayor outlined his “8 by 28” initiative that focuses on completing eight critical projects in the city in time for hosting the L.A. 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The initiative, adopted by the Long Beach City Council earlier this year, mirrors Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “28 by 2028” initiative for L.A. County Metro projects.

Long Beach’s eight projects include: rebuilding the Belmont/Veterans pier; building the new Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center pool facility; rebuilding 20-plus lifeguard towers; reconstructing three beach concession stands; refurbishing the Long Beach Arena; constructing a new 35-story hotel downtown; further modernizing the Long Beach Airport and overhauling the Metro Blue Line rail system.    

What made L.A.’s Olympic bid stand out from others, Garcia said, is its commitment to use existing facilities and not spend money on building new stadiums. He noted that “not all [bids] have been successful for their communities” in the past, as some sporting facilities built in other countries have been left abandoned.

“Unlike the other bids, this one is not sincerely building new stadiums,” Garcia said. “We are using existing facilities that already exist in the Los Angeles area. It makes for a much stronger bid and we give back more into the community.”

Thanks to collaborative efforts with Mayor Garcetti and L.A. Olympic Bid Committee President Casey Wasserman, Long Beach will host more than twice as many sporting events than the city has ever hosted in the last two Olympics, Garcia said.

Sporting events to take place in Long Beach include sailing, water polo, marathon swimming, the triathlon, BMX racing and handball as well as possibly other events yet to be announced, he said, adding that the proposed Long Beach Sports Park will stretch from the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center down the beach to the pier and east side of the city.

The city’s first major infrastructure project on the list is rebuilding the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, Garcia said, noting that the existing pier is “nearing the end of its life” and is in “terrible shape.” He said the new pier will be rebuilt in its “original location” where Belmont Brewing Co. (BBC) is currently located and will become the “centerpiece of the sailing competition.”  

Another major project is building the new Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center pool facility, which, if completed in time for the Olympics, will be used for exhibitions and activities but not for swimming or diving competitions. Garcia said a lawsuit challenging the city’s approval of the $103 million project has been settled and the proposal is now before the California Coastal Commission.

A project to rebuild lifeguard towers to make them “safer” for visitors and reconstruct three beach concession stand areas is moving forward, he said, adding that most of the projects, such as modernizing the Long Beach Arena where handball will take place, will be funded through tidelands oil revenue and won’t impact the city’s General Fund.

Another key project is the construction of a new 35-story hotel that broke ground earlier this year at Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue in downtown. Garcia noted that the new hotel is key to providing accommodations for the large number of visitors expected during the Olympics.

“This hotel, which is going to be the largest hotel in the city, one of the tallest buildings in the city and will be a 4-star or even 5-star hotel, is going to be spectacular and will be the main hotel of the Long Beach Sports Park when built,” he said. “We’re pretty excited about this.”

Garcia said the city is also moving forward with $45 million to $50 million in improvements to the Long Beach Airport, mainly focusing on refurbishing baggage claim areas to make them more modern, reliable and safe. He said projects include additional restorations to the historic terminal, building a new small concourse and modernizing rental-car facilities.

Lastly, more than $1 billion worth of construction to the Metro Blue Line rail system is expected to begin early next year, Garcia said, adding that the antiquated rail line will be closed beginning of January for about eight months during a complete overhaul that will include upgrades to technology and stations. He said shuttle buses and an express line will be provided to passengers during construction.

Garcia said that once the rail improvement project is complete, the new Blue Line will serve as the “main connecting artery” between the Long Beach and Los Angeles sports parks during the Olympics and will be faster, safer and more modern for local residents and visitors alike.  

“We expect many people to be here, get a hotel room in Long Beach and then go to an event in LA and take the Blue Line or vise versa,” he said. “So the Blue Line will be an important artery for us from a transportation point of view.”

As projects move forward, the city plans to form a coalition of business leaders and labor representatives to ensure that jobs created from projects include labor agreements and local hires, Garcia said. In addition, the Olympic Games provide the city more opportunities to focus on improving infrastructure, activity, walk-ability and public transit, he said.  

Garcia said the next step for the city over the next few months is to form a local Olympic committee to be led by Olympians as well as other civic leaders and residents seeking to participate in preparing for the Olympic Games.

“We’re going to help move this process forward [with those] who are going to be active, engaged and really want to participate in putting together what will hopefully be the best Games in Long Beach,” he said. “It’s not to say that there aren’t challenges and possible pitfalls along the way, because there are, but we’re looking forward to addressing those as well.”

sean@beachcomber.news

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