By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
It was a full court press on Wednesday night for the Budokan of Los Angeles gymnasium. Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation kicked off its capital campaign with a $1 million donation from the Aratani Foundation for the Budokan, a multi-sport complex to be built on Los Angeles Street in Little Tokyo.
The city of Los Angeles signed a 50-year ground lease in May for $1 per year and now LTSC has begun to raise the $22 million estimated to complete the gymnasium and a 150-space parking structure. Plans for the Budokan of Los Angeles include a four-basketball court facility, a rooftop garden, jogging track and meeting spaces.
“I know for sure, if we build it, people will come, there is no doubt in my mind,” said Bill Watanabe, LTSC executive director.
For a cool $7.5 million, you can have your name on the gymnasium; naming rights for one of the four basketball courts is $1 million. Alan Kosaka, president and co-chair of the Budokan, quipped that even naming rights for the facility’s toilets could be had. The fundraising is the next step in what has been a 20-year struggle to build a gym in Little Tokyo.
LTSC CDC has set a tentative goal to break ground on Budokan in the winter/spring of 2014, with construction completed by 2016. The goals are contingent on completion of the fundraising campaign.
Many of the gym’s longtime supporters came out to the event held at the Toyota USA Automobile Museum in Torrance, including architect Hayahiko Takase. Councilmember Jan Perry presented a proclamation to Watanabe, signed by the City Council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
“It has been worth the struggle and the fight, and I really look forward to helping to raise money so we can get this built. It’s going to be an exciting day when the ribbon is cut,” said Perry.
Jamie Hagiya, who played most of her years at USC at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, noted the impact that the new Galen Center has had on the team and the university.
“It’s the same thing for the JA community and Asian American community, to have something of our own where we can have kids playing, tournaments, martial arts and music, especially being here in J-Town,” said Hagiya.
LTSC announced that the Uchima family had made a $50,000 pledge for the Budokan. Ansho Mas Uchima, author of “Fighting Spirit: Judo in Southern California, 1930-1941,” welcomed the return of judo to Little Tokyo, noting that the Rafu Dojo was located where Parker Center is today.
“I’m glad that now we will have a judo dojo included in the Budokan,” said Uchima.