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Costa Mesa council to discuss moving money to fund Lions Park playground improvements

In a bid to bankroll renovations and upgrades for the playground at Costa Mesa’s Lions Park, City Council members will discuss Tuesday whether to repurpose funding allocated toward other projects.

The staff-proposed monetary maneuvers would free about $2.05 million that could then go toward playground improvements at the park, which itself is undergoing a $36.5-million renovation that includes a new library.

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Currently, the playground consists of a play structure that was installed in 1995 and sand and rubberized surfacing. It also includes a Korean War-era Grumman F9F Panther jet, which is why Lions Park is sometimes referred to as “Airplane Park.”

The funding in question was previously earmarked for football field and stadium bleachers at Costa Mesa High School and for renovations at the Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex that included converting two of the fields to artificial turf.

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In each case, city staff says those dollars are no longer needed for their originally intended purposes. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District has already wrapped up work on the stadium and is not interested in moving ahead with the bleachers project, according to a staff report included in Tuesday’s council agenda. The scope of the project at Jack Hammett also has been changed to eliminate the installation of artificial turf.

Using those funds to instead upgrade the Lions Park playground would complement the city’s other projects there and “provide a more completed picture and improvement of the overall park area,” the staff report states.

Precise plans for the playground have not yet been put forward, and “staff recommends that community meetings be held to conduct outreach and obtain input on options for the improvements,” according to the report.

Such options could include smaller-scale renovations of the play equipment and landscaping or a more comprehensive makeover featuring new walkways, restrooms, fencing and playground equipment.

The cost of the project could be anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, depending on its scope, according to staff. Whatever the final design looks like, city officials have said the plane — installed in 1960 — will remain.

Meanwhile, work is continuing on the first phase of the Lions Park projects. Crews have already torn down the former Neighborhood Community Center in the park to make room for a new two-story, 23,355-square-foot library, which is currently under construction.

The city anticipates finishing the library next spring.

During the second phase of the project, the existing 8,740-square-foot Donald Dungan Library branch in the park will be renovated and converted into a community center.

Tuesday’s council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

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