It was a sentimental night in Long Beach, where the City Council met for the last time inside the imposing “old City Hall” before moving to a gleaming new one next week.
Many former city officials showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to bid the old place adieu, including 88-year-old former three-term Mayor Beverly O’Neill, and there was even a cake in the shape of the 14-story, concrete and glass structure.
“This building has seen a lot,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “It has seen the development of the downtown … the impact of the Navy, and what it brought, and also, as it left, what it left behind.”
The old City Hall, at 333 W. Ocean Blvd., was completed in 1976, and will eventually be demolished due to concerns about seismic safety. The new Civic Center at 401 W. Ocean Blvd. includes an 11-story City Hall and a matching 11-story building for the Port of Long Beach.
The project cost $533 million, and is scheduled for its grand opening on July 29.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council unanimously voted to name its main library after legendary tennis player Billie Jean King, one of the city’s most famous products.
The Billie Jean King Main Library is set to re-open Sept. 21. The naming proposal was made July 3 by City Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce.
“Proud that our new Downtown Library will be named after Long Beach legend @BillieJeanKing,” Garcia tweeted. “She is a sports legend, a pioneer in the women’s rights movement, an LGBTQ champion, and a leading figure in the fight for pay equity. An honor worthy of our most decorated hometown hero.”
King has long been regarded as one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time, with 39 Grand Slam titles to her credit — 12 in singles competition, 16 in women’s doubles and 11 in mixed doubles.
She is also a pioneer in the women’s rights and gender-equality movements, perhaps best highlighted by her 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” victory over Bobby Riggs.