Balboa Pavilion gets a new owner

'Everything stays the same,' says the new owner of landmark property on the Balboa Peninsula. The Balboa Pavilion, one of Newport Beach's most recognizable landmarks, has been sold.

The famed Balboa Peninsula building was purchased by a Newport Beach landlord who described his interest in the pavilion as a "labor of love."

Leo Gugasian and his son, Armen, purchased the building from the Balboa Pavilion Co.

Escrow closed Nov. 28, and the sales price was not disclosed by either party. Leo Gugasian said Monday he was attracted to "the history of the property and it being what it is." He plans to spruce up the harbor-side landmark.

"Everything stays the same. Nothing changes," he said.

Perhaps Newport Beach's signature edifice, the Balboa Pavilion celebrated its 100th anniversary in September.

The pavilion's construction permit was granted in September 1905, and construction wrapped up in 1906.

In its early days, the Balboa Pavilion was a stop for Pacific Electric's Red Cars. The crimson trains connected the Balboa Peninsula to Los Angeles and other Southern California cities and helped establish Newport's reputation as a leisure getaway.

Art Gronsky, whose family owned the Balboa Pavilion from 1947 to 1960, said sportfishing was the biggest draw at the pavilion when his family was in charge.

In its lengthy history, the Balboa Pavilion has been a place for diversions ranging from bathing suit rentals to big-band concerts to bowling.

"All the big bands of yesteryear got their start there," Gronsky said.

At present, the Balboa Pavilion is home to Catalina Passenger Service, Davey's Locker and the Harborside Restaurant and Grand Ballroom.

Leo Gugasian said he expects the current tenants will stay at the pavilion. He also has agreed to purchase Catalina Passenger Service. That deal is expected to close in January.

"We're just going to refurbish it and clean it all up and paint everything," Leo Gugasian said of the passenger service. "Everything will be the same."

Leo Gugasian own properties along McFadden Square and Mariner's Mile, including the building that houses 21 Oceanfront Restaurant and the Doryman's Oceanfront Inn near Newport Pier, as well as the planned Gugasian Center on West Coast Highway.

He expects Jewelry by Mardo and an adjacent Ferrari dealership to open at the center in January.

The decision to sell the Balboa Pavilion was a difficult one, Balboa Pavilion Co. president Matt Tozer said. Tozer became president of the company after Bette Tozer, his mother and the previous company president, died in December 2004.

"The Balboa Pavilion as a building -- the more you're here on a day-to-day basis, the more it grows on you," Matt Tozer said.

The Gugasians have already taken over management of the Balboa Pavilion. Leo Gugasian considers it a trophy.

"It's one of the finest pieces of property in the country," he said.

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