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Costa Mesa will donate $25,000 to veterans museum

The Costa Mesa City Council approved $25,000 this week toward a planned veterans museum at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

Heroes Hall will commemorate county veterans and Costa Mesa’s history during World War II, when much of the city was home to the Santa Ana Army Air Base. The museum is tentatively scheduled to open Veterans Day 2016.

The council’s approval Tuesday follows a request earlier this month from Orange County Fair Board member Nick Berardino, a Vietnam War veteran who has helped spearhead the project. Berardino is also the soon-to-be-retired general manager of the Orange County Employees Assn., which has pledged $25,000 toward Heroes Hall.

Bobby McDonald, a member of the Orange County Veterans Advisory Council, praised Costa Mesa’s financial backing for the museum. He noted that the county has 133,000 veterans, making it the sixth largest nationwide in terms of its veterans population.


“This [museum] is going to be a very, very fantastic thing for us and the community,” McDonald said.

Mayor Steve Mensinger called the $25,000 appropriation a “united council effort.” It was approved with three votes, with Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Councilman Gary Monahan absent.

Councilwoman Katrina Foley thanked the community volunteers who lobbied for the museum’s creation.

“It’s important that we keep a little piece of history as we move forward to the present,” she said.


Heroes Hall is planned to be located inside the Memorial Gardens Building, a former World War II-era Army barracks that was slated for demolition in 2013 to make way for a new entrance to the Pacific Amphitheatre. The building is named after a veterans memorial garden that was torn out in the 1980s.

After veterans groups and other supporters decried the loss, however, the fair board approved saving the building and moving it temporarily elsewhere at the fairgrounds until it can be moved permanently into a space near Centennial Farm.