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OCC’s new Mariner Training Center breaks ground in Newport; completion expected in 2021

College officials and other dignitaries break ground Monday for Orange Coast College's new Professional Mariner Training Center in Newport Beach.
College officials and other dignitaries break ground Monday for Orange Coast College’s new Professional Mariner Training Center in Newport Beach.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Orange Coast College is building bridges in Newport Beach — literally. Construction on the Costa Mesa college’s new Professional Mariner Training Center is officially underway following a groundbreaking ceremony Monday afternoon, and it will connect to the marine program’s sailing and rowing base at Newport Harbor — just across the street — by a skyway bridge over West Coast Highway.

It also will have simulations of the bridge of a ship.

Once completed in fall 2021, the two-story, 12,000-square-foot training center will be home to the college’s growing Professional Mariner Program, which currently serves more than 1,500 students and adults annually, the college said.

The $22-million project is funded by Measure M, a Coast Community College District initiative approved by voters in 2012 for facilities rehabilitation and construction.

“It’s a demonstration of the support that Orange Coast College has from this community,” said OCC President Angelica Suarez. “From the passage of [Measure] M ... to coming out this afternoon for the groundbreaking, it just demonstrates the incredible support that the college enjoys from the community it serves.”

Don Fansler, left, of the East Los Angeles Community Union talks with Larry Frapwell, the architect overseeing the project, during a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for Orange Coast College's new Professional Mariner Training Center. The site is across West Coast Highway from the marine program's sailing and rowing base at Newport Harbor.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer )

The new facility will include classrooms, a laboratory space, a full bridge simulator, a radar training room, a conference room and a student lounge.

Sarah Hirsch, newly appointed manager of the college’s community boating program, said the school offers a radar class to students on the main campus in Costa Mesa, but the new training room will bring the class to the program’s primary location on the water.

Students will have access to simulator units in the lab space, Hirsch said, and the full bridge simulator will be outfitted to look like the bridge of a ship, which serves as the command and control center.

“On the ship, you’d have a big window and a lot of electronic equipment right there to navigate,” Hirsch said. “To simulate that, a number of large screens will simulate the view out of the window, and we could actually work with our students to navigate out of, say, the Port of Long Beach or Los Angeles and they could practice leaving or managing in heavy weather.”

Brad Avery, Orange Coast College's director of marine programs and a Newport Beach city councilman, speaks during Monday's groundbreaking ceremony for the college's new two-story, 12,000-square-foot Professional Mariner Training Center in Newport.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer )

The project is more than 15 years in the making. Brad Avery, OCC’s director of marine programs and a Newport Beach city councilman, said the concept began when seven contiguous lots went up for sale across the street from the sailing and rowing base.

After the Orange Coast College Foundation tried unsuccessfully to buy the lots, the Orange County Sanitation District reached out to the sailing program to discuss installing a pump station at what would later become the construction site for the new training center, with the remaining land allocated to the college, Avery said. The Coast Community College District bought the land from the sanitation district in 2017.

Avery said the new facility will “supercharge” the program and provide a bigger presence in a credit program for students interested in maritime careers.

“Whether it’s on yachts, work boats, tug boats, military sea lift command or transferring to a four-year maritime college, we’re able to offer that with this new building,” Avery said. “That’s what it’s really about.”

Avery added that members of the public who participate in the program will be able to use the facility as well.

“It’s a win-win for the community on both sides,” he said. “We’re training local kids for jobs in an avocation that they’re passionate about, but we’re also open to all community members to participate in the classes.”

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