COSTA MESA — Signs that the new PBS SoCal building was still under construction were evident at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for the public TV station's new headquarters.
Ceiling tiles between lights were missing, and the building's inner pipes and beams were exposed. There were bright yellow hard hats on tables. Orange, magenta and purple balloons were strewn about the station's sparse 2,100-square foot studio space.
Some 200 community and nonprofit leaders and donors — including members of Costa Mesa's City Council, "Real Orange" host Ed Arnold, and Jo Ellen Chatham, president of PBS SoCal's board of directors — showed up at the building at 3080 Bristol St., less than a mile from South Coast Plaza.
Clifford the Big Red Dog also made an appearance, earning a resounding "aww!" from those in attendance.
Elmo wasn't available, said PBS SoCal Chief Executive and President Mel Rogers.
He's "a little big for his britches," Rogers quipped.
Before shovels dug into a small patch of dirt in the center of the room, Chatham and Rogers spoke about the new station's goals. They touched on some of the history and the station's early roots as a small channel based at Golden West College in Huntington Beach. They also talked about its expansion as the No. 1 PBS station in the nation's second-largest media market.
Formerly known as KOCE, the station became SoCal PBS after KCET, another Southern California PBS station, left the Public Broadcasting System. Costa Mesa-based SoCal PBS was born Jan. 1, when KOCE replaced KCET as PBS's new full-service affiliate in the region.
Rogers pledged that the station would continue to treat its viewers as citizens rather than consumers, serve as a platform for civil discourse, and abstain from the shouting matches that he believes dominate many news programs.
Mayor Gary Monahan said it was an honor that the station chose Costa Mesa as its new home.
The station is also aiming to create a greener studio by using LED lights that reduce cooling costs and use less energy.
One of the new initiatives the station is set to undertake is the "Education and Community through Media" project that includes the development of a national digital content division, expansion of K-12 services, the "Ready to Learn" program and the creation of the "One Community" mobile studio.
PBS SoCal expects to officially move into the new Costa Mesa location this fall.