ExplorOcean has the seed money to grow

The Newport Harbor Nautical Museum's ExplorOcean center has a substantial portion of the necessary funds to expand at the Balboa Fun Zone, officials said this week.

During a presentation at Tuesday's Newport Beach City Council study session, ExplorOcean Capital Campaign Chairman Tom Pollack said the waterfront center has $8 million committed to it, or about 10% to 15% of what he expects will be the total cost before fundraising.

The project is six weeks into its capital campaign.

Pollack said Thursday that the funds are what the museum has amassed over 25 years.

ExplorOcean's expansion from the Nautical Museum will expand to the former site of the Fun Zone carousel and to some adjacent parcels.

Museum officials told the council they are committed to "bringing the fun back to the Fun Zone."

So far, a new Fun Zone attraction, Ocean Motion, which features a trampoline and straps, was installed and is illuminated at night.

The new center is also expected to spur job creation in the area, Pollack told council members.

ExplorOcean is anticipating about 261,000 annual visitors, and a report commissioned by the museum shows the new center may create 117 new jobs in Newport and 188 in surrounding areas.

An additional 300 parking spaces will also be necessary to handle the anticipated influx of visitors to the area, Pollack said.

The project is in the soil test phase of construction, and Pollack said he doesn't think an environmental impact report will be performed before construction.

A less intensive environmental study will likely take nine months to a year, city Community Development Director Kim Brandt told the council.

Among the activities planned for the museum are exhibits where visitors can virtually explore unchartered waters, an underwater treasure hunt and a navigation workshop where patrons can chart courses using star charts or more modern GPS devices.


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