Byline: Taylor Hill
NEWPORT BEACH — The 25th anniversary celebration of the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum will mark the unveiling of the museum’s long-awaited future plans for development of its Balboa Peninsula Fun Zone property.
Starting at 6 p.m. Oct. 22, the party will open with the unveiling of the museum’s plans for ExplorOcean, a waterfront attraction that Newport Harbor Nautical Museum (NHNM) president Rita Stenlund said she hopes will put the “fun back in the Fun Zone.”
“We have so much to celebrate,” Stenlund said. “We are celebrating the progress we have achieved toward making our dreams a reality. And, we’re celebrating the excitement, fun and inspiration that we have the honor to give back to the community of Newport Beach by breathing new life and fun into the historic Fun Zone. This will absolutely be an evening our guests will remember for the next 25 years.”
The 900-square-foot ExplorOcean preview center will showcase the future plans the museum has for the Fun Zone area, and it will be located on the site that formerly housed the carousel.
The iconic Balboa carousel was removed from the property after NHNM — which owns the property — decided to not renew the operator’s lease. The attraction was the latest to be removed from the Fun Zone area, following in the footsteps of the Dark and Scary Ride and the bumper cars that were removed in 2006, to make room for the museum’s temporary facilities.
While plans have been a long time in the making, with ideas for a new waterfront facility in the works since 2008, the latest concept calls for the museum to become an interactive cultural destination that will be dubbed ExplorOcean.
The showroom will include detailed architectural renderings, a fly-through high-definition video and a large, three-dimensional model of the waterfront attraction created by architect Rick D’Amato of LPA Inc. and Phil Hettema and his team at the Hettema Group.
While the attraction remains under wraps, the Hettama Group is known for creating “4-D” theater experiences — including the ride/movie experience at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, called “Beyond All Boundaries.” It employs advanced format and immersion technologies, making viewers feel as if they are actually aboard a warplane, experiencing a battle.
Hettama’s ability to create interactive features in its attractions was one of the reasons the firm was picked for the project.
“We need to find a niche that distinguishes us from neighbors like Dana Point’s Ocean Institute and Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific,” Stenlund said.
Following the unveiling of the site’s plans and future attractions, Newport Beach resident and Virgin Oceanic expedition leader Chris Welsh will be on hand to speak about his future involvement with the museum.
“We are thrilled that Chris is playing a key role in development of our project,” said ExplorOcean Chairman Tom Pollack. “Chris is a modern-day explorer who epitomizes the spirit of ExplorOcean.”
Welsh, who owns the 125-foot catamaran Cheyenne moored in the harbor, will also give participants a preview of the Five Dives Expedition he has planned with Richard Branson of Virgin Oceanic. ExplorOcean has been named educational partner in the upcoming expedition: a record-breaking journey to the five deepest ocean basins on the planet.
In addition to the presentation, attendees at the event can enjoy a beachside bonfire and view the galleries of ExplorOcean/NHNM. Dinner and hosted cocktails will be served, and live music and dancing will follow.
A fall fashion show is scheduled on the docks, as well, presented by Faconnable South Coast Plaza.