Wave Staff Report
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — City officials were joined by Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer June 28 for the opening of the newly renovated Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Center.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Councilman Herb Wesson celebrated the opening of the newest Clippers Community Courts, the last of 350 public basketball courts renovated throughout the city parks system by Ballmer and the Clippers organization.
The project was managed by Los Angeles Parks Foundation and logistics were overseen by the Department of Recreation and Parks thanks to a major gift from the Clippers and Ballmer in 2018.
“The city of L.A.’s population is almost four million people and 98% of them live within two miles of a Clippers Community Court,” Ballmer said during the opening ceremony. “That means 3.9 million people have access to these courts and all of the benefits that come with them.
“With our partners at the Los Angeles Parks Foundation and the Department of Recreation and Parks, this is a proud achievement. Our dedicated team of city workers, contractors and staff, despite many obstacles, including a pandemic, completed this early. This project was a complete team effort.”
The Clippers and city embarked upon the project because they understood the impact that updated, safe places to play and gather would have on all economic levels and in all geographic areas of the city.
“Here in Los Angeles, the Clippers are so much more than a basketball organization — they’re an agent for social and economic change, and one of our strongest partners in our work to empower young Angelenos,” Garcetti said. “The community courts renovations embody everything that the Clippers stand for, and the 350 newly renovated courts are much needed improvements that will enhance the quality of people’s lives, create new opportunities and promote healthier communities.
Since the city started renovations just four years ago, the 350 Clippers Community Courts have been used as everything from basketball courts to shelters, emergency child care centers and alternative learning sites during the pandemic. The newly updated facilities will let all L.A. neighborhoods host youth sports programming that the city will benefit from as part of the city’s investment leading up to the 2028 Olympic Games.
The Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Center, formerly the Rancho Cienega Sports Complex, has played host to the Clippers’ Late Night Hoops basketball program, which provides positive alternatives for young adults plus a job fair, since 2012. The center was also one of the first nine to participate in the Junior Clippers program 17 years ago, which brings youth basketball to kids across L.A.
In addition to the renovated Clippers community courts, the Clippers have also given the Obama Sports Center a brand new technology lab, which features new computers, furniture and technology for a recording and photography studio, including a portable sound room, green screen, camera and musical equipment.
The Tech Lab is an NBA Cares 75th anniversary legacy project.
“I’m proud to have played a role in providing a state-of-the-art facility in the city of Los Angeles,” Councilman Wesson said. “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.
“This center is their own personal country club. I want to thank the Clippers for being true partners in this endeavor. Their contribution to the technology center and world class basketball courts underscores their dedication to providing our kids with the chance to thrive, excel and travel as far as their imagination and abilities will take them.
Wesson also praised city employees who assisted with the project.
“I want to applaud the Bureau of Engineering and the Department of Recreation and Parks,” he said. “Each department understood how important this complex was to the community, and a huge shout out to my staff. And now that this center is complete, it’s time for us to show off what we as a community have created.”
“This was the largest donation ever to the city of Los Angeles’ parks system and it has transformed recreation centers, and been a point of pride, for nearly every neighborhood in the city,” said Carolyn Ramsay, executive director of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation. “I have to thank my predecessor, Judith Kieffer, who developed the initiative with Clippers President of Business Operations Gillian Zucker and Denise Booth, Clippers chief diversity and inclusion officer and vice president of community relations and player programs.
“We also want to express our deep gratitude to Steve Ballmer whose visionary donation came from understanding the need for basketball courts as an essential focal point for every community.”