Bocce Courts Proposed for Palisades Rec Center

By Sue Pascoe

I want this to be the living room of the park,” said Jimmy Dunne, who is spearheading a project at the Palisades Recreation Center that could include three courts for bocce and a re-designed picnic area. “We want to make this a beautiful place so that instead of people saying ‘Let’s meet at Starbucks,’ they say ‘Let’s meet at the park.’”

The Pacific Palisades resident presented his plans to the Park Advisory Board (PAB) at its quarterly meeting in the small gym on July 20.

“The minute there are courts here, there will be players and leagues,” Dunne told the PAB, noting that bocce is one of the fastest growing sports in the world because of its accessibility for all ages and all abilities.

Rendering of the bocce courts proposed for Palisades Recreation Center.
Rendering of the bocce courts proposed for Palisades Recreation Center.

Dunne, an award-winning songwriter and president of the Palisades-based company Inspire Entertainment, first saw bocce played in France when he was biking through Saint-Tropez. “There was every age imaginable gathered in the park playing,” he said. “The game seemed such a good vehicle to create a great sense of community.”

Back in the United States, Dunne has followed the growth of the sport. “There’s a public park in San Rafael in Marin County where 2,200 people play in leagues every week,” he said, and there are courts at the Hillcrest Country Club and even in a Whole Foods store in downtown Los Angeles.

After seeing the game in France, Dunne has tried it and now plays in a league at the local Bel-Air Bay Club.

“What’s amazing about bocce is it is one of the oldest games in the world, played back by the early Egyptians,” he said. “George Washington was a lover of bocce.”

The standard ball diameter is 4.2 inches and the ball weighs about two pounds. “This is a game you can play in 15 minutes, but it takes a lifetime to master,” Dunne said.

A small white ball (pallino) is thrown to the opposite end of a court. Each member of a team tries to throw, toss, bounce or roll his/her ball so it lands closest to the pallino. The team that achieves that goal gets one point. The game continues until 12 points have been scored by one team.

The three proposed bocce courts (reg- ulation-size bocce ball courts are about 13 feet by 91 feet) at the Rec Center would be placed where the picnic tables are currently located near the maintenance yard. Those tables would be moved nearer Alma Real and divided into five smaller areas separated y indigenous plants.

The estimated cost of redoing the picnic area, installing three bocce courts, and adding new park furniture and plants is $400,000, which also includes maintenance for three years.

Dunne, PAB member Bob Harter and Bill McGregor, a Brentwood architect and developer, pitched the idea of a bocce court before commissioners of the Department of Recreation and Parks in August 2015.

Harter said, “The project in concept was enthusiastically approved and they asked if we could create a template that could be used by other Park Advisory boards who might also be interested introducing the sport in their parks.”

Dunne added that the commissioners felt that this project “could be a poster child for other parks.”

One PAB member wondered if there would still be room for a bounce house for those who hold a birthday party at the park.

Another PAB member asked if the the upper lawn area closest to Alma Real would still be open for kids who play soccer and other recreational activities.

“Yes” was the answer to both questions.

The bocce project has been approved to go forward in “concept by Rec and Parks commissioners,” Harter said.

If the money can be raised by Palisades residents, the project could open on May 1, 2017. Rec and Parks does not have the budget to provide any funding.

Funds will be raised and spent by the recently formed nonprofit Your Palisades Park Improvement Corporation, in conjunction with the PAB. This allows funds to be used locally. For more information, contact Dunne at (310) 529-1400 or email

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