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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Save the Fun Zone, Balboa traditionalists say

They launch a Facebook campaign against plans to replace the amusement park with an ocean-themed educational center.


The ferris wheel is a landmark at the Balboa Fun Zone. (Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times / June 29, 2006)

By Mike Reicher, Los Angeles Times

October 31, 2011

The carnival-like atmosphere of the Balboa Fun Zone apparently will not pass without a fight.
A group of preservationists has launched a Facebook campaign to halt plans for ExplorOcean, an ocean-themed educational center that would essentially erase the 1930s-era amusement park from the heart of Balboa.
The Fun Zone has become something of a game piece in the debate over whether Balboa has become scruffy and in need of a face-lift, and whether a gleaming new development would kick some needed life into the area.
ExplorOcean officials insist their plans would modernize the Fun Zone and make the area more relevant for future generations. They unveiled their designs publicly last week, including plans that show a Ferris wheel remaining on the waterfront of Newport Harbor.
James Pobog, 60, is among the traditionalists who aren't buying the pitch.
"They're not doing this out of altruism," Pobog said. "Someone's going to make a boatload of money."
The nonprofit Newport Harbor Nautical Museum, which would operate ExplorOcean, plans to rent part of the space — possibly for restaurants and private events — to generate funds to operate the museum. The nearly $40-million multistory museum would include submarine simulators and a 4D theater, where salt mist would be pumped into a room to give guests a proper nautical experience.
As part of his protest, Pobog spends time on Facebook writing slogans below scenic landscape paintings of the Fun Zone, with phrases like "Save the Fun Zone, Stop the Museum Monstrosity."
Some longtime Newport residents say that the museum's plans are out of step with their sense of the community and that they support Pobog's effort.
ExplorOcean President Rita Stenlund said that after visiting the preview center, some people have come around and are receptive to the proposed development.
But Pobog isn't one of those converts.
"It just fundamentally changes the Fun Zone," he said. "It becomes something else."

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