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Billie Jean King Library name approved by Long Beach Council

LONG BEACH — The city’s new main library will be named after Long Beach native and tennis icon Billie Jean King.

The Long Beach City Council unanimously approved the proposal tonight. The vote was 8-0.

About 20 speakers addressed the council before members voted, and approximately ¾ of the speakers were in favor of the idea.

The people who were against the proposal didn’t object to King. They were disappointed that the process wasn’t more transparent and other names were not offered.

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Billie Jean King Library

The 93,000 square foot library will be located downtown at the southwest corner of the intersection of Broadway and Pacific Avenue. 

The Billie Jean King Main Library is scheduled to open September 21.

It will be approximately 30 percent smaller than the old main library, which was 135,000 square feet.

Billie Jean King Library

Billie Jean King holds her Bobblehead at Dodger Stadium on May 31, 2019 during the team’s LGBT Nite. Photo:Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Long Beach native

In a letter to the city, King said she is “it is deeply humbling” to have her name in consideration for the new library.

“This honor would represent my life coming full circle, and my complete belief of having a commonplace for the community, where all are equally welcome and have access to visit, learn, and grow,” King said.

Naming the library would increase LGBTQ visibility in Long Beach. The city has more than 100 buildings and facilities, but apart from Harvey Milk Park and Billie Jean King Tennis Center, near Woodrow Wilson High School and Park Estates, no other public spaces have been named for people who identify as LGBTQ.

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Since the campaign to name the library after King began earlier this month, more than 1,000 people have sent letters, emails, and petitions to the city in support of the idea.

Tennis champion

On the tennis court, King has made many achievements.

One of King’s highlights was when she defeated Bobby Riggs, 55, in the “Battle of the Sexes,” which took place Sept. 20, 1973. King was 29 at the time. It is considered one of the greatest moments in sports history.

King is a former World No.1 professional tennis player with 39 Grand Slam titles.

Title IX

Off the court, King was a tireless champion for Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which was signed into law in 1972. It prohibits sex discrimination in all federally funded school programs, including sports.

Previous to its passage, only 1% of college athletic budgets went to women’s sports programs. At the high school level, male athletes outnumbered female athletes 12.5 to 1.

Since being passed, female participation at the high school level has grown by 1057 percent and by 614 percent at the college level.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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