The Friends of EXPO Center is a nonprofit organization that raises funds to support the recreational, educational and cultural programs offered at EXPO Center, a Department of Recreation and Parks facility that serves at-risk youth and families in one of the most densely populated and economically challenged communities in Los Angeles. EXPO Center hosts over 2.3 million visits each year.
The Friends of EXPO Center was instrumental in raising the $30 million that built EXPO Center and it continues to support the vital facility with leadership and financial resources. The Friends of EXPO Center raises funds from individuals, corporations, and foundations and strategically directs these resources to the creation and support of innovative recreational and multifaceted educational programs at EXPO Center.
Thanks to the generosity of the individuals and organizations that support The Friends, EXPO Center is able to offer many critical educational, recreational, and enrichment programs for at-risk youth and their families, most of which would not be possible without this financial support.
In 1998, several Los Angeles business and community leaders felt compelled to address the dire need for empowering change in South Los Angeles and shared the desire to create a community safe-haven where the often overlooked residents in this economically disadvantaged neighborhood could come together to improve their daily lives, develop skills for a positive future, and foster pride and ownership of their neighborhood. In order to create a centrally located community center for this large neighborhood, a very large facility would be needed. Standing on the southwest corner in Exposition Park sat a remarkable, yet abandoned building – the historic 1932 Summer Olympics Swimming Stadium. When originally built, it was one of the most spectacular aquatic facilities in the world. From 1932 until 1970, 65 world records were set in this facility; no other pool in the world has come close to that tally. It was the launching pad for the careers of Clarence “Buster” Crabbe, Eleanor Holm and Esther Williams and became USC’s “home pool” in the 1950s. However, by the 1970s, the facility was showing its age and when Los Angeles was awarded the 1984 Olympic Games, rather than refurbish the historic 1932 venue; it was decided to build a new swim stadium on the USC campus. This once spectacular historical facility was ignored, and when the 1994 Northridge Earthquake caused significant damage, the entire facility was forced to close. The city began discussions to raze the historic building and pool in order to build a multi-story parking structure for the neighboring Coliseum. Los Angeles historians and philanthropic visionaries sprang into action and started a non-profit organization to save this significant piece of Los Angeles history.
By 1998, The Friends of EXPO Center had raised $17-million from private funders and $13-million in public support to repurpose the 1932 Swimming Stadium into a state-of-the-art recreational and community facility. In 2004, The Friends gifted the building to the City of Los Angeles thus beginning a unique and thriving public/private partnership in which the daily operations of EXPO Center is managed by the Department of Recreation and Parks with ongoing leadership, strategic direction, and financial support from The Friends. The building’s renovations restored the original Art Deco façade and Olympic signage and encased within it a steel and glass addition that houses two gymnasiums, two locker rooms, two large multi-purpose rooms, three large classrooms (Afterschool area, computer lab, video production lab), conference room, commercial kitchen and multiple offices. The 50-meter Olympic pool was restored and a secondary family-friendly recreation pool was built. Renovations were also made to a 1922 Spanish-Colonial building at the edge of the property and turned it into the Ahmanson Senior Center with a working community garden in its “backyard”. During the day, the Senior Center offers a variety of fitness classes, computer workshops, and various clubs and then in the late afternoon and evenings it becomes classrooms and rehearsal space for Youth Orchestra Los Angeles at EXPO Center.
Also added to the EXPO Center campus was the Ralph M. Parsons Preschool, which provides local families with year-round licensed childcare and preschool education; the W.M. Keck Amphitheater, used for free outdoor community concerts and plays; and the Soboroff Sports Field, which provides the community with a regulation-size AstroTurf playing field.
The City of LA recently awarded EXPO Center management of the historical Exposition Park Rose Garden and The Friends have been entrusted with renovating and repairing this amazing historic Los Angeles jewel. The EXPO Center manages the day-to-day operations of these facilities and The Friends provides strategic leadership and the funding necessary to keep all EXPO programs free or low cost for the community. Twelve years since its opening, EXPO Center now boasts over 2.3-million visits each year with its most vital and important programs made possible by The Friends. For funders, the partnership means that contributions to The Friends go directly to programming, with little of the overhead that is typically part of an organization’s costs.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
John M. Argue, Co-Chairman
Founder & Senior Managing Director
Terry L. Feit, Co-Chairman
Partner, Strategic Clients
Steve Calhoun, Treasurer
Senior Executive Vice President
Patrick Escobar, Secretary
Law Offices of Fausto P. Escobar
Steve Soboroff, Chairman Emeritus
Mrs. Roy A. Anderson (Betty)
Founding Director of The Friends of EXPO Center
Senior Vice President
Wells Fargo Bank
Eric S. Bright
Senior Vice President
Bel Air Investment Advisors LLC
Debra Kay Duncan
Chair, LA84 Foundation
Regional Director – External Affairs
Shelby Jordan II
Senior Project Manager
First Vice President, Wealth Management
Sports & Entertainment Director
The Lindbrook Group at Morgan Stanley
Partner, Assurance Services
Ernst & Young
West Coast Real Estate Debt Originations
CIT Bank N.A
David Roberts & Associates
Chief City Executive, Los Angeles
John A. Somerville
Vice President, Area Business Unit Leader
Buildings + Places, Los Angeles Metro
Executive Administrator & Grants Administrator
Dan Murphy Foundation
Senior Vice President of Wealth Management
Henry J. Brandon
Brandon and Associates
Christopher L. Fox
Minuteman Holdings Company
Jon S. Gibby
Retired Executive Director, Los Angeles Rotary Club
Cecilia Aguilera Glassman
Retired Executive Director, Los Angeles Police Foundation
Payden & Rygel
Curren D. Price, Jr.
Councilmember, 9th District
Los Angeles City Council
Jeffrey N. Rudolph
President & CEO
California Science Center
Mike A. Shull
City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks
Stender E. Sweeney II
Executive Vice President
LA Regional Commercial Banking
Wells Fargo & Co.