The Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer team has signed an agreement ensuring that the soccer fields just north of the Torrance courthouse will remain open until at least 2028.
The news brought joy to fans and players in the city, where the American Youth Soccer Organization was born.
But how did the prime 6.2-acre site at 555 Maple Ave. in the heart of the city become available in the first place?
Its land remained unused until 1958, when the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Co., founded in 1888, opened the first of two factories there to produce large quantities of paper bags for the suburban market. Despite its name, the company had maintained a presence on the West Coast since 1925.
The company opened a much larger adjacent factory on the site on January 1, 1960. Part of the company’s Hinde & Dauch division, it covered 110,000 square feet and cost $500,000 to build and outfit. Its main product: moisture-resistant corrugated boxes suitable for use by fruit and vegetable growers for shipping.
West Virginia Pulp’s tenure at the Maple Avenue plant ended a few years later. In 1965, a new papermaker tenant occupied the building.
Boise Cascade had formed in a 1957 merger of a pair of lumber companies from Idaho and Washington.
Its business took off almost immediately, and its growth in the lumber, construction and paper products industry eventually turned it into a multi-billion dollar conglomerate.
In addition to its Maple Avenue plant, the company also operated a nearby facility at 540 Hawaii Ave.
Boise Cascade maintained this presence in Torrance until 1990, when it closed the Maple Avenue plant. Epson America had purchased the land in Boise in 1986, thinking it might need it to expand its new factory nearby on Madrona Avenue.
This never happened and a new neighboring entity started talking about acquiring the plot in 1991.
The Los Angeles Superior Court courthouse was built in 1968 at 825 Maple Ave. But it quickly became overcrowded when the authorities decided to set up the headquarters of the region’s municipal courts there as well.
Court administrators had tried to find a way to fit a new building and giant parking lot into the parking lot of its existing site, without success.
The news of Boise Cascade abandoning the large property just north of the courthouse seemed like the perfect solution.
After negotiations were completed, the County Board of Supervisors agreed to purchase the 6.2 acres for $8.6 million from Epson, which had razed the old Boise Cascade building in preparation for the sale.
It was an avant-garde gesture.
The county knew it might not have the funds to build the proposed additional $47.9 million courthouse for about 10 years or so. But, that way he would have somewhere to put it once funding could be secured.
But the 10s almost became 20s, and yet the ground remained empty – full of weeds and spilled trash.
California Congresswoman Betsy Butler, D-El Segundo, proposed a plan to build soccer fields on the vacant land for community use while everyone waited for the courthouse construction project to become a reality.
Torrance city officials agreed to the plan in July 2011, stipulating that it would operate on a low-cost, month-to-month rental basis. A 10-year lease with the California Judicial Council, the official owner of the land, was entered into for $1 per year, with Torrance agreeing to pay for the construction of the fields.
Construction of the $3.2 million facility began in 2013.
In March 2014, Toyota secured the naming rights to the project through a $500,000 donation to the city.
The Toyota Sports Complex opened to much fanfare on March 26, 2014. It hosted its first major event in July, the AYSO National Games, which attracted over 500 teams nationwide.
The heavily used facility has quickly become a vital part of Torrance’s youth sports community.
Hence the concern when news broke in October that the California Judicial Board was planning to raise her rent under her new lease agreement from $1 a year to $33,000 a month.
The city couldn’t afford it, and closure seemed a very real possibility. Community response against the closure has been strong, with a petition to save it garnering over 4,300 signatures.
Fortunately, the Los Angeles Galaxy franchise stepped up in December and struck a deal to pay $20,000 a month to use the facility for training. The team already operates the Kinecta Soccer Center building across the street.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Galaxy will use the pitches from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as Tuesday and Thursday evenings, with youth soccer groups having access the rest of the time.
Galaxy and city officials officially opened the renovated and renamed LA Galaxy Sports Complex on April 16, ending community fears that the complex will be closed for at least six years.
A new courthouse may still appear on the site after 2028, but for now, soccer reigns supreme on Maple Avenue.
Sources: Daily Breeze Archives. Los Angeles Times Archive. Torrance Press-Herald Archive.