Pacific Club torn down

Newport building is demolished to make way for a rebuilt headquarters, to be ready by November. NEWPORT BEACH -- The home of the Pacific Club was torn to shreds Tuesday.

A building that was once a setting for exclusive banquets and meetings of Orange County business figures was beaten, battered and broken apart by heavy equipment while club members looked on.

Watching the demolition project was a time for club members to reminisce about the past while looking forward to the time when a new edifice will be raised to house the MacArthur Boulevard club.

"For me, there's some real nostalgia," Pacific Club board member Bob Cristiano said.

Cristiano stood on the grass outside the Pacific Club with a handful of other club members Tuesday morning as a big yellow excavator tore off chunks of the building's exterior wall. Eventually, the machine exposed walnut paneling that for Cristiano held special significance.

Cristiano said that one day in 1986, he was tasked with helping to get ready for a formal grand opening that began at 5 p.m. At 4:30 p.m. that day, he was still busy applying wood stain to the paneling to prepare for the event.

That was about 19 years ago. Scant minutes after Cristiano told his story about working on the paneling, it was torn down with one quick swipe of the excavator's shovel.

Before the club's founding in 1982, the building was home to a restaurant.

"I stood here and watched the sticks go up," said club member John Hamilton. "I was at the Koll Co. when the building went up as a restaurant."

As the demolition progressed, battered wood and shredded pink insulation materials grew around the excavator's treads. The machine -- which could rip off large chunks of the building's green copper roof and transform walls and windows into piles of pulverized plaster, fragmented wood and glass -- reminded one of the onlookers of a "big hungry dog."

Club general manager Joseph Gatto said the club's nearly 700 members will move functions to an adjacent spa and fitness building while a new headquarters is built.

"We're already in the middle of converting our basketball court into a dining room," Gatto said.

The new building is expected to be finished by November. Club member Bob Currie said he expects the Pacific Club's new digs will be nothing less than "a magnificent new building, which is as nice as you can get today."

20060104isjkesncKENT TREPTOW / DAILY PILOT(LA)A crew tears down the Pacific Club building near the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and Von Karman Avenue on Tuesday. The club's new headquarters will be rebuilt on the same site.

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