There are some imaginative ways to “pop the question,” but on the evening of Thursday, December 8th, Mike Thelen outdid them all — at least as far as his girlfriend Lisa Abel is concerned.

The two former Loyola Marymount University students had just come from a romantic dinner and had planned to attend the LMU Christmas Concert.

As they arrived, Dr. Mary Breden, director of the school chorus, met them outside with the 30-member Consort Singers.

“She told us they were just outside warming up for the concert,” said Mike, having set up the entire thing. “They were on the bluffs in their tuxedos and robes and holding electric candles.”

Mike took his girlfriend to the edge of the bluffs — the same spot where he had asked her to be his girlfriend almost eight years before.

“Then Dr. Breden and the singers created a half-moon behind us as we looked out over the lights,” Thelen said.

Thelen had spent the previous four weeks working with Breden on this special night, and the Consort Singers had learned a unique French composition that was special to the young couple.

As they broke out in song, Lisa was surprised as Mike got down on one knee.

“It was a very special and sacred moment to us,” he said. “I told her that I had found in her my soul mate and that I pictured us growing old together. Then, I asked her to marry me.”

Lisa, of course, said “yes.”

“We were ecstatic,” Thelen said. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. After she said yes, I went to the edge of the bluffs and screamed with all my might, ‘She said yes’!”

Little did Lisa know that Mike’s screams were not just screams of joy, but the signal to cap the event with something even more special.

As Mike’s voice rained down on the empty land of Playa Vista below, fireworks began to light up the night. As the couple looked down, a static fireworks display crackled with the words “I Love You Lisa.”

“I knew that something was going to happen,” said Lisa, “but the whole event was beyond my expectations. I was so speechless.”

Not only did Mike arrange the fireworks display — a two-month process that involved the cooperation of Playa Vista, the acquisition of a series of permits and a notification letter sent to the homeowners along the bluff top — Mike made sure a specific series of fireworks was included.

“Every time we watch a fireworks display, we always say that the red ones are for us and we kiss,” he said. “So, halfway through, I made sure there was a flurry of red fireworks. It was just awesome.”

Mike said the event’s crescendo nearly didn’t happen.

“As you can imagine, you run into a lot of resistance trying to put on your own personal fireworks display in the City of Los Angeles,” he said. “But Playa Vista was tremendous in working with me to get the fireworks to happen. I want to acknowledge that. It was great that they were interested in building community and being part of my proposal to Lisa.”

There were plenty of other people who were a part of the night as well.

When the display was complete, there was applause from the people along the bluff top who had turned out to watch the spectacle.

There were people cheering from Playa Vista below. And congratulations could be heard from the throng of people who gathered at LMU to see what was happening.

“It was a magical evening,” said Mike. “It was even better than my mind’s eye saw it.”

Certainly, for Lisa, it will be a moment she will always remember.

“Every time I tell the story, I still can’t believe it happened,” she said. “He’s a very romantic guy. I’m so lucky.”

Now, Mike’s only challenge is to top the engagement with a phenomenal wedding celebration.

Lisa said the couple is looking at tying the knot next fall. That gives Mike only about nine months to start planning.

ATHLETIC ADDITIONS — The two newest additions to the athletics family at Loyola Marymount University are nearly completed.

The facilities for the men’s golf program and for the softball team are in the process of having the final touches put in place to debut in the upcoming spring 2006 season.

Thanks to private donations to LMU Athletics and the men’s golf team, the LMU golf practice facility was able to allow players to begin practice on the site in October, with the grounds work to be completed by the end of the year.

The total area of the putting green is around 5,900 square feet of synthetic turf and it includes a first-cut fringe and rough.

The putting surface is more than 2,800 square feet of polypropylene fibers and 1.25 inches in height.

The first-cut fringe is around 600 square feet and will be 1.75 inches in height. The final cut of rough is more than 2,000 square feet at two inches in height.

Nine different cups with pins and flags are installed into the putting surface.

As for Smith Field, it has begun to take shape during the last several weeks, as the grass is nearly fully grown within the field area.

Final cosmetic touches will take place through December, including the state-of-the-art scoreboard, final landscaping and final touches to the batting cages.

The new Smith Field will be as unique as the family’s college experience, as the ballpark will combine state-of-the-art with a park-like atmosphere.

Smith Field will be in a similar location as the original ball field but flipped so that home plate is in the northwest corner.

The field was made possible by donations from the Mike and Patty Smith Family and is named in their honor.

FIX YOUR SIDEWALKS — Need your sidewalk fixed? Cut through the red tape and team up with the city to get the job done.

The City of Los Angeles has a new program where residents pay 50 percent of the reconstruction costs and the city will contribute matching funds.

The reconstruction cost will be based on a standard rate per square foot, including labor and materials.

Participating residents will be asked to sign an agreement which details the scope of work and their share of the reconstruction cost.

Benefits of the partnership include:

n no permit fees;

n no inspection fees;

n workmanship guaranteed for five years;

n work performed according to latest specifications; and

n related tree trimming, tree root pruning and repair of affected sprinkler systems, also included in the program.

For details, view or call (818) 374-6857.

NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL ELECTIONS — An election for 11 members of the board of directors of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey will be held Thursday, April 6th.

The nomination period for open seats began Tuesday, December 6th. All candidates must be registered stakeholders of the Neighborhood Council.

Candidates may run for only one seat. Terms of the office are three years. The following 11 seats, with respective qualifications, are up for election:

n Residential Seats 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 — The residential director must live in the residential district for which he/she is filing to represent.

n At-Large Seats — Two seats are open. Any registered stakeholder is eligible to run for an At-Large seat.

n Community Organizations — Must be a member of a recognized and bona fide community organization located within the Neighborhood Council boundaries.

n Service Clubs and Fraternal Organizations — Must be a member of a recognized and bona fide community service club or fraternal organization located within the Neighborhood Council boundaries.

n LMU Seat — Must be an employee of Loyola Marymount University.

n Education Seat — Must be an educator or administrator affiliated with a school located within the Neighborhood Council boundaries, with the exception of LMU, which has its own seat.

All candidates must complete and submit a declaration statement to the Election Committee no later than Monday, February 6th.

The Election Committee, according to the requirements stated in the Neighborhood Council bylaws, will verify candidate eligibility, and disqualified candidates will be notified within two business days after Monday, February 6th.

Information on the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-/Playa del Rey elections, or Cozette Vergari, election chair,