DISCOVERY : El Camino Real Park

Tennis, anyone? Or maybe volleyball? Or a little three-on-three hoops? Whatever the sport, El Camino Real Park in Orange offers players a veritable field of dreams.

"When this park was in the design phase," said Don McBain, a park planner for the city of Orange, "the concept was to build a recreation center with a number of sports activities. The idea was to give everyone a place to play, regardless of their interests."

City officials have made that dream a reality. In addition to the volleyball, basketball and tennis courts, the 20-acre park, completed in 1977, also features six lighted handball courts, two lighted ball fields and a soccer field.

During the day, the park is filled with parents and their children or teen-agers playing after school. But in the evenings, adults take over. "At night, the entire park is bathed in light spilling over from the sport courts and ball fields," he said. "From sunrise to closing time, this park definitely gets a workout."

And that is just the beginning. Within the next two years, the city's parks and recreation department hopes to add a 23,000-square-foot community center and gymnasium to El Camino Real's amenities.

"Right now, the community room only has enough space for 25 to 35 people," McBain said. "Besides an after-school recreation program and a citizen-run tiny tots activities program, community classes and Scouts meet there too. We need to expand the facility to meet community needs."

McBain, who has been planning Orange city parks for slightly more than 20 years, believes that a larger multipurpose site, with seating for about 250 people, will be ideal for indoor weddings, special events and will become a permanent location for a community meeting hall.

Weddings or get-togethers are currently held outdoors at several covered picnic shelters. These areas are equipped with barbecues and can be reserved for the day through the parks and recreation department. Reservation fees range from $15 to $150, based on residency status and the number of picnic shelters needed.

According to McBain, the new and larger structure will also make possible broadened community education programs.

"We are experiencing a communitywide need for a multipurpose facility," he said. "In answering that need, our ideas fit in with the original design concepts for this park."

Plans for the expansion include a gymnasium to be attached to the multipurpose room. The gym will have indoor basketball facilities for adult league play and tournaments, as well as youth basketball programs. The space will also be used for aerobics, yoga or any other type of movement class that might be offered through the parks and recreation department or other interested groups.

"I feel that El Camino Real Park is one of the better community-level parks in Orange County," McBain said. "While each park is unique and each one has its own personality, this facility succeeds in filling a variety of needs for a very diverse community."

Hours: 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily

Address: Main Street and Orangewood Avenue, Orange

Telephone: (714) 744-7272

Miscellaneous Information: The city of Orange parks and recreation department is at 326 E. Almond Ave.

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