After years of planning, the expansion of Orange Coast College’s School of Sailing & Seamanship is finally underway.
The Orange County Register reports that construction has begun on a 12,000-square-foot, $22 million Mariners Training Center across the street from the existing harbor-front school facility in Newport Beach, Calif.
A skyway bridge over Pacific Coast Highway will connect the sailing school with the center, which will be built above ground-level parking and will feature a radar training room, a full mission bridge simulator, state-of-the-art lab space, classrooms, a conference room and a student lounge.
The project is scheduled for completion in fall 2021. It’s being paid for through the bond issue that voters approved in 2012 to finance nearly $700 million in improvements in the Coast Community College District.
Brad Avery, director of the School of Sailing and Seamanship, says the program had only two classrooms at the harbor and one on the Orange Coast College campus in Costa Mesa.
“So this was about providing a new home for this program," he says. "It’s going to be fantastic.”
The college's School of Sailing & Seamanship opened almost 60 years ago, offering basic boating instruction for the general population.
The program, which now serves more than 1,500 students annually, has since expanded to include a professional program that offers certificates and associate degrees to students pursuing maritime careers.
Opportunities exist working on commercial shipping vessels, private yachts, charter boats, whale watching and dive boats, cruise ships, passenger ferries and tugboats.
“We’re getting more calls from people looking for employees than we have students,” says Sarah Hirsch, director of the college's Community Boating program. “It’s exciting down here. For us, this is an opportunity to have more classroom space right here where we already have our program.”
The seamanship and sailing school had been looking to expand for several years, Avery says. But it took about 15 years for the Coast Community College District to acquire the land.
The Orange County Sanitation District was looking to rebuild pump stations at the time and partnered with college district on the land acquisition.
The sanitation district bought the land, built a pump station first, which took about six years, and then sold a portion of the property to the community college district
Nearly all of the vessels and equipment used for teaching students have been donated over the years, Avery says. That includes a 92-foot yacht, the Nordic Star, along with smaller sail boats and power boats.
Video from Orange Coast College: