Nipomo Recreation Center Fire Damage $1 Million

The Santa Maria Times has reported that the damage to the Nipomo Recreation Center from the suspected arson fire is approximately $1 million:

Investigators are still looking for the cause of a suspicious fire last night that gutted the abandoned Nipomo Recreation Center.

Fire officials said the damage to the building and surrounding area is estimated at $1 million, though that number has yet to be confirmed.

Authorities also are on the hunt for four teenagers suspected of starting the fire.

Cal Fire/San Luis Obispo County Fire Department spokeswoman Es Berliner said a witness reported seeing four teens wearing hooded sweatshirts flee area shortly before the flames erupted about 7 p.m.

Berliner described them as between 14 and 17 years old.

All four wore hooded sweatshirts. Two were reportedly wearing black T-shirts, while the other two were wearing white T-shirts, the fire official said.

Nipomo Recreation Association leased the site in 1985 and operated the recreation center, built with community donations, for more than a decade until the County Office of Education sold the 5.3-acre property to cash in on the skyrocketing value of the land.

I have heard from Nipomo High School Students that two Nipomo High Students were arrested Friday, 5/9/08 at school as suspects in the blaze.  I have no other confirming sources, and of course no names.  If this is true, how unfortunate that these young folks have made such detrimental choices with drastic consequences.

The Recreation Center property’s future is in limbo:

Property developer and center owner Ed Shapiro purchased the site in 2004 for $2.3 million to develop Nipomo Commons, and the center was to be converted to a health club as part of that development.

But the future of the building was left uncertain when Shapiro and his project partner Rob Marinai in March agreed to eliminate the health club from their development proposal to reduce the amount of water the project would require.

That allowed the Nipomo Community Services District to transfer part of the Nipomo Commons water allocation to Marinai’s proposed hotel across Hill Street to keep that project moving through the county approval process.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about the fire to call the Cal Fire tip line at 543-9643.

KSBY reports confirm that the fire was an arson fire, and that the building is a total loss:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Reported by: Stacy Daniel


Investigators say Wednesday night’s fire in Nipomo that destroyed a city landmark may have been intentionally set.

The fire broke out at about 7:00 p.m. in the old Community Center located off 170 South Frontage Road in Nipomo.

Witnesses reported seeing several teenagers running from the building just before the fire broke out.

The building is a total loss. Despite that, fire investigators say the clues they need are here.

A charred stucco frame is all that remains of the 28-year-old building in the heart of Nipomo.

“It’s very sad. It’s very sad… This is part of Nipomo and what Nipomo is all about,” Nipomo resident Teresa Servais said.

In its prime, the building served as the city’s Recreation Center, hosting countless community events.

Nipomo Fire Captain Felix Camacho grew up in Nipomo, and said of the building, “We’ve been here for basketball events, plays – you name it, there’s been quite a bit of history at this location.”

“It’s been here for forever, and it’s almost like a monument,” said Servais.

When the Rec Center closed, the building served as a day care center until it was abandoned several years ago.

KSBY also had some good photos on their website.

Perhaps some good might come out of this in helping to determine a more definite use for the property in the near future.  We shall see.

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