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Alamitos Bay Olympic Sailing Center Plan Gains Speed

October 25, 1987|CHRIS WOODYARD | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Every weekday, Steve and Ron Rosenberg point the bow of their sleek Flying Dutchman-class sailboat toward open water.

The brothers already have invested two years in a quest for excellence that has taken them to regattas around the globe. They push themselves and their boat to the limit with a solitary goal of becoming Olympic champions.

"We've set this goal to win a gold medal and we're not going to stop until it's done," said a confident Steve Rosenberg.

Despite long and exacting hours at sea, the Olympic sailing hopefuls said practicing by themselves is not enough. Like boxers in need of sparring partners, they said they cannot perfect their skills without competition from other boats. Stopwatches do not compare with the chance to match their skills and wits against other pairs of sailors.

That is why Steve, 24, and Ron, 21, along with other sailors and racing officials in Long Beach, endorse a move to establish a training center for Olympic-class and intercollegiate sailboat and sailboard racing at the site of an old dock on Alamitos Bay. They say the center would lure the world's finest sailors to the area.

"There are a lot of very good sailors," Steve said. "It would be heavily utilized."

The proposal to establish the Long Beach Sailing Center on Alamitos Bay has been discussed in sailing circles for several years. Now, however, it appears the talk may translate into action.

On Sept. 29, the City Council approved a proposal "in concept" to lease the city-owned Naples Landing on Ocean Boulevard north of 55th Place as the site for the new center.

Executive Committee members of the Long Beach Regatta's Organizing Committee, a group of sailboat racing enthusiasts promoting the project, said they would remove the old, unused dock area to make way for construction of an 8,500-square-foot building behind a seawall.

The center would include classrooms, lockers and boat storage areas. Besides Olympic hopefuls, other advanced sailors could use the center to perfect their techniques at the tiller. It could provide a base for the sailing teams of USC; California State University, Long Beach, and Long Beach City College, under the preliminary proposal presented to the city.

It would also serve as a training site for advanced sailing seminars conducted by the California International Sailing Assn., a nonprofit corporation that promotes development of amateur sailing competition, committee member Thomas Shadden said.

The city's preliminary approval is contingent upon the committee being able to fund the project entirely through private donations by Dec. 31, 1989. Committee members said they have not yet figured out potential costs or set a fund-raising target.

Committee members said their next step will be to present design and fund-raising ideas for the sailing center to their board of directors in mid-November. They said the sailing center would be a boon not only to sailors, but also to the city's international reputation.

"It's a benefit to the community," Shadden said. "Everybody wins in this case."

Jim Gilchrist, the city's development projects manager, said the terms of the lease have not yet been discussed with the committee. The city bought the 32-slip landing in 1983 to enhance its sailing programs. While some improvements are planned, Gilchrist said, the wooden deck area and a shack are no longer used but the slips are filled.

Four executive committee members--successful businessmen who devote much of their time to organizing sailboat competition--agree that Long Beach would be an outstanding site for a sailing center, given the near-perfect weather conditions for the sport that prevail year-round.

"Alamitos Bay is one of the best sailing (locales) because of the natural conditions God gave us out there," said architect and committee member Charles Kober.

Shadden, a Long Beach investment firm executive, said the center would complement the city's Leeway Sailing Center just a few hundred feet away along the sandy beach, where beginning and intermediate sailors learn basic sailing and sailboarding skills.

While Leeway has trained thousands of young sailors, they have no place to go to advance their skills when seeking to enter racing or advanced sailing, he said.

The idea of developing the center was first seriously considered about 1980 when the present-day committee was then called the Olympic Classes Regatta Organizing Committee, a group created to develop and train sailing course officials before the 1984 games. As the games approached, the group was merged into the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. It staged the Olympic sailing events in San Pedro Bay.

Saw Need for a Sailing Center

Kober said it was during this time that he and other sailing officials could see the need for a sailing center. Visiting competitors faced a host of daily hassles, including the simple inability to get their boats easily in and out of the water.

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