The Long Beach lifeguard headquarters was ripped off the boardwalk and swept into the ocean by 20-foot waves during Superstorm Sandy.
Nearly nine years later, Long Beach officials hoisted four 20-ton pieces over the boardwalk onto the beach to give lifeguards a new home.
The pre-constructed $1.2 million modular lifeguard headquarters marks the last of nine boardwalk structures rebuilt after the boardwalk was destroyed during Sandy in 2012.
Officials closed a section of the boardwalk March 4 so two cranes at Riverside Boulevard could lift the pieces onto a wooden foundation built on the beach. The new 1,000-square-foot structure will be connected with heat, plumbing and built onto a boardwalk walkover.
Without a headquarters, lifeguards have had to operate in beachside trailers to change and dispatch onto the beach.
"We haven’t had one for nine years now. It’s been difficult," lifeguard chief Paul Gillespie said. "Without those trailers we would have no shelter whatsoever. This will be the first year with a permanent shelter."
The new lifeguard headquarters is part of a $3 million project to rebuild the final three buildings destroyed on the boardwalk, in addition to bathrooms and comfort stations at Neptune Boulevard and New York Avenue.
All nine of the buildings rebuilt since 2015 were completed using $9.7 million in disaster grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The city covered the remaining $3 million, Public Works Director Joe Febrizio said.
Joe Febrizio said he was on the boardwalk on Oct. 29, 2012, when the original lifeguard stand was knocked off its footing by the rising storm surge and tides. Pieces of the headquarters were later found on the bayfront, miles away near Lindell Elementary School.
"During Sandy, it disappeared into the ocean. When it got pushed off by the tidal surge, it got pushed off its footing and careened off the boardwalk and it was never seen again," Febrizio said. "It’s a long time coming, and a great project funded by FEMA."
The new lifeguard headquarters has panoramic windows facing the beach and a rooftop observation deck with a pulldown staircase for lifeguards to survey the entire beach park, Febrizio said. It was built at the base flood elevation, almost level with the boardwalk.
The building, which is designed to withstand hurricanes, includes a locker room, showers and a first aid area. The headquarters will also be equipped with a new radio system and cameras that can monitor the beach after hours, Gillespie said.
A crew of about 150 lifeguards work during the day through the summer and a smaller emergency response team stays on duty until 8 p.m. after the beach closes to swimming.
City officials last year had to close the beach overnight after a rash of near drownings and parties on the beach.
Gillespie said the new headquarters will allow lifeguards to cover the entire beach by dispatching from the center of the 2.2-mile boardwalk. Lifeguards also share comfort stations on the ends of the beach.
"We finally have our own place to call our home for lifeguards," Gillespie said. "This just lets people know we are for real."
Cost $1.2 million to construct
Measures 1,000 square feet
Built in four 20-ton pieces
Includes locker room, showers, first aid, radio and observation deck