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Obama Sports Center To Open as First Los Angeles 'Net-Zero Emissions' Property

Eco-Friendly Project Named for Former President and First Lady 75% Complete

The Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Center has been under development for more than five years.


The Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Center is on target open this summer at a city park in Los Angeles' Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw district as what is expected to be the city's first "net-zero emissions" new building.


Los Angeles-based architecture firm SPF:architects said the pre-engi­neered met­al buildings at the sports center, formerly called the Rancho Cienega Sports Complex, are now fully upright with metal cladding installed.


After more than five years of planning and construction, the Obama Sports Center is designed to be the city's first new "net-zero" building, a term that environmentalists use for projects aspiring to balance the amount of greenhouse gas produced during construction and operation with the amount of gas removed from the atmosphere.


The center broke ground in 2018 and continued construction during the coronavirus pandemic.


The redevelopment's environmentally friendly design is part of a larger push to combat climate change through methods including conscientious real estate decisions by the city of Los Angeles. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced almost three years ago the city's goal of having net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. That goal includes ensuring all new city buildings are net-zero by 2030, while converting 100% of all city buildings to net-zero by 2050. It is an effort to reach goals set by the international Paris Agreement and builds on a sustainability plan Garcetti unveiled in 2015.


The park's pre-engi­neered met­al build­ings have com­po­nents sim­i­lar to those air­craft hangars use for natural light and ventilation and come with a rooftop solar array to support the power and operations of the new facilities. The project includes electric vehicle charging stations and bike racks to promote alternative transit and provide a link to the nearby Metrolink rail station.


Vertical construction of the center is nearly complete.


SPF and Hood Design Studio are installing drought-tolerant landscaping, taking design inspiration from Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian’s “Boogie Woogie” painting. The project incorporates five different ecological zones — high desert, canyon, coastal, chaparral and medicinal — in a grid-like pattern that ties the buildings and sports fields together.


The city in 2015 tapped SPF to expand and redevelop the master plan of the 29-acre sports facility at 5100 Obama Blvd., where tennis stars and sisters Venus and Ser­e­na Williams played as children. A number of NFL play­ers got their start on the football team at nearby Dorsey High School.


The pool area and other parts of the project use natural lighting to reduce energy consumption.


The city's decision to rename the park, previously known as the Rancho Cienega Sports Complex, after the former president and first lady was announced by city officials in 2019 when the city also renamed the more than 3-mile Rodeo Road Obama Boulevard.


Obama held his first Los Angeles campaign rally in that park after announcing his intention to run for president in 2007.


The Obama Sports Center includes basketball courts and enclosed track facilities.


The 40,000-square-foot Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Center building includes a 23,000-square-foot pool area, a 16,000-square-foot basketball gymnasium, a partially enclosed walking track, two seating areas that serve the tennis center and stadium and a garden for the existing community park building at the site.


The project broke ground in 2018, but construction has proceeded deliberately as the project team divided it into phases to avoid closing the entire park, which is a focal point for the area, one of the city's largest Black neighborhoods.


SFP expects the project to open in July.