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The Story of South Mission Beach Sports Park, Bill Walton and San Diego Beach Improvement Group

The South Mission Beach Sports Park was initiated back in the 60s with a single basketball court and a couple of poles for beach volleyball. Through the year Bill Walton enjoyed playing as a young man and as he moved through his years with the NBA, he still relishes these memories (see video below).


In 1997, Bill worked with community, Parks & Rec and installed 14 beach volleyball courts. Because Bill had enjoyed having this open space to play basketball, free of charges and open, he advocated for this at the beach volleyball courts with the agreement that only a few major events would be grandfathered and be able to have permits.


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By 2002, the nets and lines had disintegrated or had been stollen, so the facility was looking run down. Laura Hendrickson initiated research on who was taking care of the court to find out that there were a few locals ready to help, but one of the main spearheads for the courts had moved to LA. After speaking to this person and Bill Walton, steps were taken to renovate the courts.

Laura rallied the volleyball players together and raised the money to get new nets, redo the lines and put it all back together. In 2007, we established the nonprofit, San Diego Beach Improvement Group or SD BIG. Being a native of San Diego, Laura wanted the nonprofit to include supporting all beach amenities, sports equipment, and master plans at the beach.

Some impacts of the work with the nonprofit include more beach volleyball and healthy sports at Mission Beach Sports Park and less gangs walking up and down the boardwalk at South Mission Beach. The Police no longer need pods and teams of policemen at this location. We actively do beach cleanups at the location and have maintained the beach volleyball courts so well that it has become a true haven for the beach volleyball players. We have many testimonials, some who have enjoyed this facility for years, made friends and having weekly gatherings to play. They mention how they can come, play and it truly changes their lives just because playing makes them feel better.

Currently our projects include maintaining the beach volleyball and basketball courts at South Mission Beach, doing regular beach cleanups, and painting utility boxes along Mission Beach Blvd. Our team is growing and we will be starting some beach volleyball clinics in 2024.

During the beach cleanups and working on projects at the beach, there are many individuals who tell us their stories. A young man who was playing at the basketball court told me that basketball saved his life! He proceeded to tell me how he had jumped from foster family to foster family, but through all of these transitions, he’s always found a home with his basketball friends. When I met him, he was a part of the National City Semi-Pro Basketball team. Having our open, public basketball and beach volleyball courts is a special place.

In 2022, after refurbishing the basketball court with the support of Veniceball LA, Hoopbus, Match Point and Project Backboard, Bill Walton came out for a ribbon cutting, kid’s clinic and a grand event to celebrate 25 years at the Sports Courts of South Mission Beach. Having the press and City Council Member, Jennifer Cambell really made it special. Bill told the story about playing on this specific court since the 1960’s and how special they were to him developing into the player and man he is today. It is a true testament to how public sports facilities can impact people and their lives.

Be sure to watch Bill Walton's video (above)

Recently, we put together a beach cleanup and painting project in North Mission Beach at Santa Clara Place. We had a small group arrive for the day, but we were able to clean up over 145 lbs of trash, paint 9 trash cans and 2 beautiful designs for the utility boxes. We had many individuals pass by to acknowledge how the art really brought joy and light to the beach, admiring the beauty and appreciating the work we were doing.

This is the impact we bring to all the beaches of San Diego. Coming together, collaborating and taking care of this amazing place for all to enjoy. Being able to have a space where people of all ages can play, feel better and become better people because of these environments, sports facilities, and a clean beach… we not only take care of ourselves as a society, but we take care of earth.

Giving Back
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Giving Back

We strive to create beauty and inspire people through our activities, art and events.

Left: Laura Hendrickson incorporates local businesses like the Women's Health Center, Olive Baking Company, Cheap Rentals, Miss B's Coconut Club, Guava Beach, Salt Water Culture, Just Get Wet and BouTiki into paintings on the utility boxes at Santa Clara Place in Mission Beach. This project is part of our annual "Clean Sweep" event to keep Mission Beach looking beautiful.

I have walked past this #mermaid #mural painted on a utility box on #missionblvd so many times, I simply love it. This is one of the special things I look forward to seeing every time I am in #SanDiego. such a great vibe Come on, a baby mermaid nursing? Absolutely awesome.”

                                 – Steve Diamond

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