Newport Beach celebrates opening of new $7.8-million junior lifeguards HQ

Newport Beach fire Chief, Jeff Boyles introduces.
Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles introduces Capt. Gary Conwell, Officer Carley Christian and recreation coordinator Cynthia Haritatos, from left, during a community celebration and grand opening for the new Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard facility on Wednesday.
(Susan Hoffman)
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To a chorus of cheers and applause, the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard headquarters officially opened for business Wednesday afternoon.

Hundreds came out to celebrate the much-anticipated $7.8-million building, which was funded by the city of Newport Beach and the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard Foundation.

The 5,400-square-foot facility, located in the A Parking Lot near the Balboa Pier, replaces the 2,160-square-foot trailer that previously housed the program. It includes administrative and event space, additional storage, locker rooms, a deck area and public and private restrooms.


Conceptual plans were approved by the Newport Beach City Council in 2021. Permit approvals came from the state Coastal Commission in March 2022 with construction beginning in the fall of that same year with officials hoping for its completion by the subsequent summer, but construction issues delayed its official opening until this week. This year’s summer junior lifeguards season is poised to kick off June 18 with a crop of about 1,400 participants.

The "Founders Wall" unveiled during opening of the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards new headquarters.
The “Founders Wall” was unveiled during the grand-opening dedication ceremony of the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards new headquarters on Wednesday.
(Susan Hoffman)

Mayor Will O’Neill, who along with his wife, Jenny, is a founding donor for the facility, thanked both past and current City Council members, city staff and others who supported the project in his remarks.

“This building represents a lot more than the concrete and the decorations on the outside. It is now home to one of the best programs in the entire state of California, and that is a big deal,” ONeill said to the audience.

“The Newport Beach junior lifeguards program has taught tens of thousands of young people not just water safety — although that is incredibly important — but discipline and hard work as well,” the mayor continued. “A lot of you are out there are better adults right now because of what you went through in here and we have [the program’s founder] Reenie Boyer and the Newport Beach lifeguards to thank.

“This building is here for us today. It’s going to be here for the junior guards now and 40 years from now.”

Assemblywoman Diane Dixon noted the building plans were nearly an eight-year endeavor, and she recalled speaking with Graham Harvey, chair of the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard Foundation, about the possibility of building the facility.

“At the time, this was ... 2015 ... and the city had just built the magnificent City Hall and Marina Park. So, [we had] some big public works projects, and we know the Newport Beach Public Works Department can do just about anything. So, Graham talked to me, and I said, ‘Well, let me see,’” Dixon said. “Eight years later, we are standing in front of this magnificent facility.”

Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard founder Rennie Boyer shared her experience.
Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard founder Reenie Boyer shared her experience from early days of the program during the dedication ceremony for the new Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards facility in Newport Beach on Wednesday.
(Susan Hoffman)

Boyer, who started the program in 1984 and retired from it in 2010, noted it had come a long way from when it started with only 50 participants and three lifeguard instructors, including herself.

“The first couple of years, there were 50 to 100 junior lifeguards and three to five instructors and a single-wide trailer right out there. On our 10th anniversary, we had about 800 participants, 25 instructors and a double-wide trailer. On our 25th anniversary, we had about 1,400 junior lifeguards, 50 instructors and a triple-wide [trailer] and two storage containers,” Boyer recounted.

“In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think this Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard building would become a reality,” she continued. “I’m eternally grateful to have been allowed to work with my wonderful colleagues in the city of Newport Beach and then touch the lives of so many youth in our community. So, thank you. May the city of Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard legacy continue another 40 years-plus. Lifeguards for life, friends for life and remember: safety first, safety last.”

Newport Beach Mayor Will O'Neill cuts the ribbon with council members.
Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill, center, cuts the ribbon with City Council members Robyn Grant, Joe Stapleton, Noah Blom, Lauren Kleiman and Erik Weigand, from left, during the community celebration and grand opening for the new Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards facility on Wednesday.
(Susan Hoffman)