La Jolla Rec Center will get new wiring, curtains

The community advisory group meetings that take place at La Jolla Rec Center’s main hall usually start with the respective chairs tapping or testing the microphones — Can you hear me now? How about now?

That’s because the wiring at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St., is around 40 or 50 years old, and in dire need of an upgrade. But this week, an inspection took place that will kick off a “massive and very costly” project to re-wire the building, paid for by the City of San Diego.

“This project is going to be managed by San Diego Park & Recreation in liaise with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E),” said Cindy Greatrex, Park & Recreation Inc. president. “The SDG&E component is crucial as the electrical meters will need to be relocated to a better position (they are in the basement now and current code requires them to be accessible to SDG&E 24 hours per day). This project will take many months to complete, and the initial engineering drawings/renderings are being undertaken now.”

On Tuesday, Aug. 23, the Center’s electricity was temporarily shut down so an extensive inspection of the current wiring could take place.

Tyler Canales, area manager for the Department of Park & Rec explained, “This is a very initial step. Once we see what we’re working with and complete the inspection, we will know how long everything will take, how much it will cost and when we might be able to schedule the work.” Although the cost has not been determined, the City of San Diego has already invested more than $10,000 in the project.

“An upgrade was needed,” Canales added. “The wiring wasn’t in bad enough shape that there was a hazard or that anything was going to burn down, but it really needed to be brought up to code.”

Lamenting only that the power has gone down at inconvenient times (such as the building’s July 2015 centennial celebration) he said there aren’t many problems with the 101-year-old center.

The Rec Center will close for about two months to complete the project, but the outdoor recreation space and restrooms will remain open. In the interim, other area facilities such as La Jolla Community Center, La Jolla Riford Library, and religious intuitions will host the 10 regular community advisory group meetings that occur there every month.

“As they say, it takes a Village, and we are blessed to have excellent neighbors,” Greatrex said. “It will be some time before this wiring phase happens, and ample notice will be given to all parties over a period of time as we get closer to this.”

During the re-wiring, the green curtains flanking the stage will also be replaced with dark brown ones, so they’re more in line with the accent colors in the building. “This is another massive project, as the curtains need to be custom cut and are an incredibly heavy commercial fabric. The Espresso Brown is a spot-on match to the trim at the Rec, and the brown color favored by architect Irving Gill,” she said.

With the new wiring and more contemporary curtains, the Rec Center would provide a better setting for the planned youth theater program. Following a donation from the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation, executive director Doug Dawson suggested a revival of the company that existed at the Rec in the 1950s and ’60s.

Greatrex explained, “We have been doing some archival work and discovered that in those days, the Rec Center had both Broadway lights (multicolor lights ceiling mounted behind the curtain) and also footlights, which extended out on metal tracks from beneath the stage, which have since been removed. We have restored the Broadway lights and will look into recreating the footlights after the wiring job is completed.”

Philanthropists Art and Jeanne Rivkin purchased a baby grand piano for the stage, and local volunteers will offer classes in acting, singing, stage direction and set-building, culminating in a play in late 2017.

To further determine community desires for the Rec Center, Greatrex said a series of forum dates are planned. With money in the coffers that could be used for anything the community may want (“within reason,” she laughed), the Rec Center board will find out what that is and if they can provide it.

Built by architect Gill and funded by benefactress Ellen Browning Scripps, who donated the land across from her home, the La Jolla Rec Center was established to give a children place to play, a place for men to congregate without liquor and a place for the civic groups to meet in the evenings.

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