Yamaguchi, who grew up in Fremont, will donate to the city a unique, state-of-the-art playground that allows children with disabilities to play alongside able-bodied kids, she told council members Tuesday.
Funds for the playground will be raised by her charity, the Always Dream Foundation. Yamaguchi, 35, founded the Oakland-based nonprofit group in 1996.
Her inspiration for the proposed playground stemmed from the positive feedback she received from disabled children who participated in summer camps that the foundation has sponsored.
"The accomplishment of playing with other kids ... truly builds the self-esteem of children with disabilities," Yamaguchi said at the meeting.
The new play area will replace an outdated 25-year-old facility standing on the northeast side of Central Park, near Stevenson Boulevard.
Plans call for it to be a unique "fully accessible and integrated" playground for children of all abilities the only one of its kind in Northern California, Fremont Director of Parks and Recreation Annabell Holland said.
"There are a few in Southern California and nowhere else in between," Holland added. "It's a great honor to have it here."
Yamaguchi's nonprofit is working with MIG Inc., a Berkeley planning and landscape architecture firm, on fleshing out its designs.
The project's partners will look at preliminary designs in June, said Jim Adler, the foundation's chief operating officer.
Then they will make adjustments before taking their proposals before the Fremont Parks and Recreation Commission in July, Adler said.
The nonprofit and Fremont officials have been working together on finding a site for nearly a year. Adler said they
chose the 1-acre Central Park area over those of other cities for a number of reasons, including its proximity to BART and nearby restroom facilities.
A regular city playground typically would cost about
$350,000, but little of the new play area will be standard, Holland said. And its price tag might be as high as $500,000, Adler said.
The Always Dream Foundation will pay the tab. After that, the city will be in charge of the park's maintenance. When asked about the playground's estimated operating expense, Holland said she was unsure of specific figures, but added that its cost roughly equals that of the playground it would replace.
In addition, the nonprofit's donation is helping Fremont inch closer toward replacing its playgrounds. The proposed facility will be the sixth that Fremont will replace, one more than the city planned in its recently approved five-year Capital Improvement Program. Five others must wait until more funds are available, Holland said.
Yamaguchi, who grew up in Fremont, attended Centerville Junior High School and Mission San Jose High School.
She earned a gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France, and captured the world championship crown in 1991 and 1992. She also won the U.S. national championship title in 1992, after placing second there for each of the three previous years.
She now lives primarily in Alamo with her husband, NHL hockey player Bret Hedican, and their two children. But she told the City Council that she frequently comes back to Fremont, where her parents have lived for about 30 years.
"I am so proud to give back to the community of which I have so many fond memories," Yamaguchi said.
Chris De Benedetti covers Fremont issues. Contact him at (510) 353-7002.