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Donors complete funding for Newport Beach’s new $4.9 million junior lifeguard headquarters

Fundraising efforts for a  new junior lifeguard building in Newport Beach reached a major fundraising milestone in recent weeks.

The $4.9 million project is happening as a public-private partnership between the city and the nonprofit Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard Foundation, which recently fulfilled its obligation to raise $1.75 million toward construction costs.

“It just shows the support we’ve received from the community reflects on how important junior lifeguards are to Newport Beach and surrounding cities,” said Graham Harvey, chairman of the foundation, who noted there’s still efforts underway for additional fundraising.

Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards may get a new headquarters by 2023. About 1,350 kids will learn how to prevent injuries and respond correctly in emergency situations each summer.(PHOTO BY: MINDY SCHAUER/SCNG)

The city last March approved plans for the project and committed $2 million of the cost from the general fund for the new building. The funding gap of $1.1 million will be offset by removing a Junior Lifeguard Program fee subsidy from the city of $129 per participant, which will increase fees to $856 starting with the 2022 summer program.

Newport Beach Marine Safety Chief Mike Halphide said there were a lot of big hurdles to get to this point.

“We feel good about it,” he said. “We expect to be able to break ground in a little more than a year.  We’ll host our first group of junior lifeguards in summer of 2023.”

The project still needs California Coastal Commission approval.

Plans for the facility have been in the works for about a decade, with various ideas of what the new building should entail and where it should be located.

The most recent approved plans pushed the building to the parking lot near the Balboa Pier after concerns it would be too close to the sea and tidal zone. The area flooded last July, worrying officials about the impacts of flooding.

The building will be raised a few feet off the ground and berms will be built in anticipation of big swell events.

Since the popular program started in 1984, junior guard instructors have worked out of temporary trailers set on the sand south of the Balboa Pier.

Demand has grown in recent years, each summer drawing 1,350 participants and 60 instructors who hit the sand and surf for the popular program.

Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards return after paddling and swimming around the Newport Beach Pier in Newport Beach on Thursday, July 9, 2020. The junior lifeguards may get a new headquarters by 2023. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The nonprofit by earlier this year already had cash and commitments of $1.1 million, one of the biggest boosts coming from Newport Beach philanthropist David Pyle, who committed $875,000 to the project, Harvey said.

Earlier this year there was still about a $650,000 shortfall, but various efforts in recent months got the nonprofit to their goal.

A large fundraiser at Arbor Real Estate last month brought in a few hundred thousand dollars, Harvey said, with one of the most popular items up for grabs was a pier jump that cost $1,000. About 65 people jumped, legally, off the Balboa Pier about a week ago.

“We got a lot of positive feedback, the jump was amazing,” he said. “Getting out of the surf line gives us respect for what the lifeguards and junior lifeguards do … that was really, really cool.”

It was such a hit with people wanting the thrill of the pier jump that it may become an annual fundraiser, he said.

Also, there’s still room on the donor wall for those who still want to contribute toward the building costs and other expenses such as scholarships for junior guards who need financial help, he said.

“Our main commitment has been met, but we plan to continue raising funds,” Harvey said.

The nonprofit plans to present a final check to the city next January.

Source: Orange County Register

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