Eyesore To Get Makeover
CMA hopes to turn old bar into gym
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 04/26/2008
The aftermath of the demolition this week of the former cafe near the entrance to California Maritime Academy will make way for a new gym at the site. (Courtesy photo)
A longtime eyesore at the entrance to Vallejo's California Maritime Academy was demolished this week to make way for a new university gym and survival training complex, a school official said.
But due to current financial uncertainties, the new facilities may not happen for a while.
The razed building has been called The Pilgrim, The Sands, Choi's, but by whatever name, the cafe between the Motel 6 Maritime North and the CMA entrance has stood fallow for years during property negotiations, said CMA spokesman Doug Webster. Those talks recently bore fruit, allowing the derelict building to come down, Webster said.
A neighbor who declined to be identified in print, said the site's been empty for at least a decade.
"There used to be music there, and a bar, and it used to get pretty rowdy," the neighbor said.
"It was obviously an eyesore, and there were problems with transients breaking in," Webster said.
But no more. The university took possession of the property two or three months ago, and crews tore the place down Tuesday, Webster said.
"The state owns it - several parcels around it - on our behalf, from the motel to our gate and down Maritime Academy Drive, and on the far side to the trailer park," he said. "The long-term plan is to build a new athletic center and a survival training center."
The school's existing gym and pool is about 60 years old, too small and in need of major repairs and upgrades, Webster said.
"The floors have been sanded so many times, you can't do it anymore; it's so thin," he said. "During basketball games, the players are practically in the audience's laps."
The school's specialized maritime curriculum requires some specialized equipment to optimize graduates' real-world marketability, and that's what the new facility aims to contribute to, Webster said. Among the requirements for gaining shipboard employment as an officer or engineer is survival training, he said.
"One requirement is a certain number of hours at sea, in simulators and in survival training, like jumping into the water from a ship and turning over a capsized life raft, and to get into a special suit," Webster said. "And to deliver that training properly, the new facility will have wind and wave generators and a helicopter blade simulator."
Students also will be able to more realistically train in rescue basket lowering and hoisting with the new simulators, he added.
"This is not just playing around. (Students) have to prove they can get into a survival or Gumby suit in a minute, to get a job," he said. "You can die of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay in a very short time, and this has happened."
University officials also are discussing possibly opening the new facility to the community during the summer when many students are away, Webster said.
But there's a catch.
While the Cal State system, of which CMA is a part, has known for years of the needed upgrades, and has approved the project, the school couldn't "get in line" for funding until it owned the property, Webster said. And with threatened educational budget cuts, it may be a couple of years before the project can start, he said.
"So, in the meantime, we've cleared the area and it will stay idle," he said. "Or we may make part of it into a parking lot, but we still need funding for that, for paving, lighting, fencing, security."
• E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6824.