Long Beach city leaders marked the groundbreaking of an expansion to Davenport Park Tuesday morning, which will add about 6 acres of open space to the North Long Beach community.

The project will transform a flat, treeless lot that sits between the already developed 5.5 acres of park space and Paramount Boulevard. It will become a mini sports field complete with bleachers, goal posts and a decomposed granite walking path.

Other amenities being added are picnic areas, fitness equipment and potentially over a hundred trees along the perimeter of the new sports field, according to renderings. The driveway into the park area will also be repaved and additional parking will be added.

The improvements are expected to be finished by the summer of 2024.

A rendering of the proposed $9.6 million improvements that are planned for Davenport Park in North Long Beach. Photo courtesy city of Long Beach.

Mayor Rex Richardson said that the added green space would make an incredible difference for one of the city’s most densely populated communities.

“You’ll have a good two years to get out here and practice on the soccer field before the World Cup,” Richardson said.

The 2026 World Cup will come to the Los Angeles area in just under three years with Sofi Stadium in Inglewood serving as one of the 16 host sites. Richardson added that the park will also get a new basketball court as part of the city’s “Elevate 28” investment plan, which seeks to upgrade city facilities before the 2028 Olympics.

The City Council approved up to $9.6 million in grants, developer fees and Measure A dollars to be used for the Davenport Park expansion earlier this year.

Long Beach city officials using gold shovels to signal the start of the Davenport Park expansion project Tuesday Aug. 29, 2023. Photo by Jason Ruiz.

Councilmember Al Austin, who represents the area, said that the park improvements would be transformational for the hundreds of kids who live within walking distance of Davenport Park.

The expansion is being built on top of an old landfill, which closed in 1947. Davenport Park is named after Ed “Pops” Davenport, an officer who served in the Long Beach Police Department for 40 years. The park was built as an offset to the LBPD North Division Station being built at Scherer Park, where it opened in 2006.

In 2006, the city’s redevelopment agency acquired the vacant lot next to Davenport Park in the hopes that it would become usable open space by 2010. However, it’s sat largely empty since then with just a walking path on the lot that has no trees or other amenities.

The site was prepped earlier this year with a gas control system to help manage the landfill that still exists below the surface.

A tractor sits at the Davenport Park construction site where city officials celebrated the groundbreaking of the 6-acre park expansion project Tuesday Aug. 29, 2023. Photo by Jason Ruiz

While city officials believe that the park improvements will be completed in about a year, the weather could factor into when the park actually opens. An El Niño weather pattern is being projected to hit the region later this year, which could bring lots of rain, something that Public Works Director Eric Lopez said could change the timeline.

The rain the city saw this year has pushed back the completion dates of the El Dorado duck pond project and the Colorado Lagoon open channel project, Lopez said. The rains “moved dirt that shouldn’t have been moved around” Lopez said of the two projects, and now crews will have to do some regrading of the area before they continue their work.

Lopez said the goal is to get the grading done for the Davenport Park expansion before the rainy season arrives.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.