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Mesa Musings: Proposed L.A. stadium has nothing on LeBard Stadium

January 25, 2011|By Jim Carnett

A panel of Los Angeles City Council members has shown considerable interest in "fast-tracking" a study on building a downtown football stadium next to Staples Center and L.A. Live.

The proposed $1-billion stadium, — complete with retractable roof to protect fans from Southern California's notorious autumnal nor'easters — would seat 64,000.

I don't mean to splash cold water on the panel's self-congratulatory high-fives and backslaps, but, for us Newport-Mesans, this stadium brouhaha is so yesterday.

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Fifty-seven years ago, we began constructing a football structure that has served our community well to this day. And its price tag was far below that of the proposed L.A. stadium — about 1/3,000th of the cost!

Admittedly, the edifice of our local stadium lacks a fancy sunroof, but over the decades I've attended more than 200 football games there and got drenched maybe once.

This local palace is a gem of a sports venue housed on a community college campus. I am talking, of course, about Orange Coast College's LeBard Stadium — originally Pirate Stadium — which was built from 1954-55 at a cost of almost $300,000. It opened in time for the 1955 football season.

Built by Parker, Zehnder and Associates, the stadium was constructed to accommodate 7,600 fans. Dirt was excavated from the site of the field and piled high along the sidelines to form the underpinning for the grandstands. The playing surface is below grade, giving the stadium a sunken-bowl design.

OCC's first head football coach, Ray Rosso, played a central role in the design. He made certain it was fan-friendly. All seats are close to the action.

In 56 seasons, the stadium has hosted about 800 community college and high school games, attracting what I'd estimate at more than 2 million fans. I've attended games when 10,000 fans overflowed the bleachers and spilled out into the ivy. I've seen temporary bleachers installed above the south end zone.

In 2004, the stadium underwent a stunning makeover to include improved seating and access for disabled fans, as well as an artificial playing surface. A field house was completed in 2007.

I became acquainted with the stadium in June 1958. My Everett A. Rea Junior High School graduation ceremony was held there.

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