In October 2019, the Great Park was well on its way to becoming the jewel of Irvine, as the city rolled out the red carpet for developer FivePoint Holdings’ new project that would build a home for the USA Olympic Water Polo team in the heart of the city. 

The facility was set to include Olympic class swimming pools, a new parking structure, along with basketball and volleyball courts that were promised for public use. 

But over two years later, the city has yet to receive any plans or paperwork to push forward with construction. 

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Even just weeks after the project was announced, it was clear it wasn’t the completely rosy view presented to the public. 

The proposed $250 million plan didn’t have much more attached to it than a few pieces of concept art, and while it would be the home of USA Water Polo, taxpayers in the Great Park would foot the bill for construction. 

[Read: Irvine Approves Squishy Concept for $250 Million USA Water Polo Stadium at Great Park]

The last update on its progress was a 30-second briefing buried in a 20-minute presentation on the park’s construction last September, saying the city was expecting the preliminary designs were supposed to roll in by the end of last year – design plans that were originally due in Spring 2020.

But five months later, the plans are nowhere to be seen, according to Great Park Manager Steve Torelli, and it doesn’t seem like anyone wants to talk about when they’ll be seen again.  

When asked for a new timeline on when the plans could come in, Torelli directed reporters to Joel Belding, deputy director for the Great Park. 

Belding did not respond to requests for comment.  

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From May 2020 to July 2021, the project was put on hold due to COVID-19, despite protests from members of the city council, who asked Great Park developer FivePoint to come to their meeting and update them on any progress that was made. 

FivePoint ignored that request, and has not appeared at any city council meetings to speak on Great Park issues since the October 2019 meeting, when the water polo complex project was unveiled. 

FivePoint spokesman Steve Churm did not respond to requests for comment. 

Chris Ramsey, CEO of USA Water Polo, did not return multiple requests for comment. 

The issue of updates from FivePoint isn’t just limited to the aquatics complex either. 

A Voice of OC review found that while FivePoint projects were regularly discussed at the end of 2019 and into September of 2020, updates largely dropped out for nearly a year after that, and no one from the company has appeared to speak to the council publicly in at least a year. 

Former FivePoint CEO Emile Haddad addresses the Irvine City Council following a presentation on the water polo complex.

The delays also come as FivePoint has gone through three CEOs in the last year. Emile Haddad, the founder of the company, stepped down from the top job in September 2021, and was replaced by then chief operating officer Lynn Jochim as president of the company. 

But earlier this month, Jochim was replaced by Daniel Hedigan, a former Irvine Company executive, with Jochim moving to an advisory role and leaving behind both the title of president and chief operating officer. 

The company’s CFO Erik Higgins also submitted his resignation in January, though he will remain with the developer until the last year’s annual reports are finished.

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

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