On Tuesday, Jan. 24, the Irvine City Council unanimously agreed to begin developing an analysis for a proposed 45,000 square foot gym and community center on vacant land at Bill Barber Park. A staff report indicated that the estimated cost of construction is approximately $40 million.

Irvine City Manager Oliver Chi explained that estimations on cost-per-square-foot are preliminary, adding that Irvine has approximately $60 million available for construction.     

“It’s very preliminary information – it’s derived from cost per square foot. I think what we’re trying to do is get an order of magnitude of what a facility would cost,” Chi said. “We have roughly $60 million available for use towards an effort like this – which should be enough to get a spectacular facility built.” 

If approved, the project would become the city’s first publicly owned gymnasium. The project would also work to meet the needs of Irvine’s growing recreational community that has expressed the need for more badminton, volleyball and pickleball courts.  

During the meeting, both Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim and Farrah Khan voiced strong support for incorporating space for badminton. 

“I do want to emphasize that as we’re looking at the uses for this gym, that we do set aside space for particularly badminton — because I think that was the driving force for us wanting to move forward on this project,” Khan said. “We want to make sure we dedicate an appropriate space for them.”

In fact, e-comments related to council’s Jan. 24 discussion of a potential gymnasium project generated more than 30 responses in support of more space for indoor badminton in Irvine. 

A staff report associated with the gymnasium proposal accounts for a combination of three basketball and volleyball courts or 12 badminton or pickleball courts, along with locker rooms, offices and other features. 

In terms of usable gym space throughout the city, Irvine has joint use agreements with 10 schools within Irvine Unified, and two Tustin Unified School District gyms located at Beckman High School. 

Opened in 2000, Bill Barber Park is approximately 48-acres. It currently contains a 750-spectator softball stadium, with three additional softball fields, six tennis courts, batting cages, a playground and picnic areas.   

The concept of the City of Irvine gym has been a long discussed topic, dating back to the opening of Bill Barber Park. However, earlier plans of the development combined the gym and community center into one 45,000 square foot building.

This is a developing story.

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