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Supervisor speaks up for preserving WWII building

Moorlach says it would be a shame to lose the nearly 70-year-old building to expand the Pacific Amphitheatre.

July 04, 2013|By Bradley Zint
  • The Memorial Gardens Building at the OC Fairgrounds is slated to be demolished as part of the Pacific Amphitheater renovation work.
The Memorial Gardens Building at the OC Fairgrounds is… (Don Leach / Daily…)

People interested in saving the Memorial Gardens Building have a new ally: Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach.

The District 2 supervisor, who represents Costa Mesa and lives in the city, said he was interested in the history of the nearly 70-year-old building, now located at the state-owned Orange County Fairgrounds, after reading about it in the Daily Pilot.

Much to the dismay of some historical preservationists, the former World War II-era Army barracks is slated for demolition later this year to make way for a new Pacific Amphitheatre entrance plaza.

"I'm concerned about losing a key building from an incredible legacy here in Costa Mesa," Moorlach said.

He said his staff has been in contact with fairgrounds officials.

"We had a pretty good telephone conference with [fairgrounds Chief Executive] Doug Lofstrom about what our concerns are and what we could do," Moorlach said.

David Mansdoerfer, a policy advisor for Moorlach who visited the site Monday, said preliminary research indicates that the building can be relocated. The logistics of doing so may involve moving it in pieces, he said.

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"It has been moved before," Mansdoerfer said. "We just don't know if it was once or twice … and we don't know when it was."

Moorlach said it was too early to divulge numbers, such as how much it would cost to move the building or if moving it would be cost-effective.

"We have a World War II connection with a lot of the fairgrounds, and it would be most helpful to retain some of this heritage, this history that we enjoy," Moorlach said. "Just to see it disappear so you have a new entrance into the Pacific Amphitheatre seems like a real shame to me."

The Memorial Gardens Building could be relocated to the former Marine Corps air station in Tustin, where the county is planning a regional park.

Doing so, though, would change a major part of building's historical significance, Moorlach said, because it would no longer be on or near its original location, the site of the former Santa Ana Army Air Base.

The base, at more than 1,300 acres, took up a sizable portion of modern-day Costa Mesa before it was decommissioned in 1946. The fairgrounds, Orange Coast College, Vanguard University and Costa Mesa High School and others use the base's former land.

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