Santa Ana’s Jerome Community Center could soon become a site for kids to stick and move while bobbing and weaving as they learn how to box.
Residents can also ice skate in downtown later this year due to an upcoming, city-approved, seasonal ice rink sited for the civic center.
Santa Ana officials have for years acknowledged that people living in the densely-populated city, namely children, face systemic setbacks to their quality of life in shortages of parks, open space and recreational outlets for young people to help keep them out of trouble.
Yet the vacuum persists today, accompanied by city officials’ fiscal, political and divisive emphasis on policing.
This month, city leaders appear to be turning the next page in what’s been a years-long struggle to tackle the recreational youth activity issue in an effective way.
On Tuesday, elected City Council members are set to vote on hosting boxing lessons, taught by the nonprofit gang prevention group known as the TKO Youth Foundation, at the Jerome Community Center.
“The City acknowledges the community need for programs such as those offered by TKO that encourage Santa Ana youth to engage in sports and offer supervised activities in a safe environment after school,” write City Hall staff in a report attached to Tuesday’s meeting.
For instructions on how to attend the meeting remotely or in person, click here.
If approved, the city’s agreement with TKO would run from September this year through September of 2023.
The staff report doesn’t say when lessons out of the community center would start, though TKO would begin making monthly facility use payments to the city in September next year.
It comes just a few weeks after council members approved an ice-skating rink going right into downtown’s civic center, during their Sept. 7 meeting, as part of a planned four-week Winter festivity dubbed the “Santa Ana Winter Village.”
The city’s ice rink effort comes thanks to funding from a $128 million federal allocation under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The city has approved an initial spending plan for the first $80 million, with decisions yet to be made on what to do with the rest.
For months, city officials anticipated the federal bailout money could help them tackle “legacy” issues which have long beset a city that’s come to symbolize national conversations on immigration, race, public safety and policing.
Officials also look to tackle its parks issues another way, through an upcoming Parks Master Plan which could re-envision — and perhaps expand — Santa Ana’s open space portfolio.
Such a plan is still being fleshed out, and is expected to come up for council review and adoption sometime in the Winter, according to the city.
The ice rink idea comes from a collaboration between council members Phil Bacerra and Johnathan Hernandez, said Bacerra during a Sept. 7 meeting when the project was approved by a council vote.
“This is genuinely a transformative project,” Bacerra said. “In a few short months, we’re gonna see something that is very community-oriented, family-friendly.”
It could also become a regular seasonal activity, some council members suggested during the meeting.
Councilmember Jessie Lopez praised the concept as reminiscent of the iconic Christmas markets in Europe, but added she’d like staff to study “the long-term revenue or benefit it could have for the city” and look into ways entities like school districts could host ice skating days for students.
As the city comes up with a more permanent plan, Penaloza said it’s important not just to think of the ice rink or the “Christmas tree I know we requested,” but to also accommodate ways for vendors to sell holiday-themed concessions in the area.
“It’d be nice to see a kind of festival surrounding the ice rink,” he said.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @photherecord.