EL CENTRO — Council members unanimously approved for the renaming of Wildflower Park to Efren Coronel Park at its regular meeting Tuesday, October 6, at El Centro City Hall.
Wildflower Park, on 950 S. Lotus Ave. west of El Centro, is a retention basin for water overflow from nearby homes in the area. It is also where the 2008 Dynamo Girls Soccer Team and other groups practice their athletic skills.
At the meeting, Adriana Nava, community services director, presented a slide show about the policy for approving the renaming of parks in El Centro.
A public testimony from athletes and coaches from the 2008 Dynamo Girls Soccer Team followed. The 2008 part of the team’s name refers to the year athletes were born. Gianni Gomez, Alexa Ruiz, and Leila Yerena, all 12-year-olds, each took turns at the podium reading prepared statements written by each soccer player.
Here were samples: “Coach Efren was always positive during games. He would brighten our days.” “He made me a better player.” “We love you and miss you.” “He made me try harder and not give up.” “He made soccer fun and emphasized that family and school were important, and soccer was just a game.”
Miguel Garcia, head coach for Dynamo Girls 2008, said each letter was an expression of what their Coach Efren Coronel meant to them. The El Centro police officer died June 3, 2020 from COVID-19 complications. He was 51, and he had served 24 years. Coronel taught soccer to hundreds of boys and girls — and how to be great at the games.
The Dynamo soccer players travel to compete with other teams at both northern and southern counties of San Diego. They’ve brought multiple trophies back home through the years. Tournaments in San Diego were restricted due to the pandemic and games were pushed back until health guidelines relax. Once they reach high school, they will continue with their sports at the varsity level.
According to Garcia, days after the demise of Coronel, a drive-by parade was formed to drive by the residence of their beloved coach and his family as an expression of condolence.
“The amount of support from the community moved us all to tears,” said Garcia, who eventually resumed the coaching left behind by Coronel.
The new name, Efren Coronel Park, will be a testimony and a reminder for soccer players, parents, and visitors of Coronel’s contribution to the Dynamo El Centro Soccer Club and to the community of El Centro, which he swore to serve and protect.
The next step, according to Garcia, is to meet with his team and search the appropriate signage to memorialize Coach Efren. “We will raise funds to purchase the signage, which we hope to install before the end of year 2020,” said Coach Garcia.