Two Harbors, a rustic outpost on the western shore of Catalina Island, will see major upgrades by summer, Catalina Island Co. announced this week.
The company, which operates and owns many of the resort features on the island, is adding amenities to the island’s quiet side. Additions, due by May, include a dining area, meeting space and rental equipment on the beach.
The company studied pictures from Two Harbors’ early-1900s history for its South Pacific-style revamp.
Six new palapas (open-sided, thatched-roof shelters) will be named after movies of the time, and the wait staff will wear uniforms similar to garments of that period.
The company, created years ago as Santa Catalina Island Co., said it’s also adding an aerial park, with tower drops and zip lines, in Avalon. A high-speed Cyclone boat will offer fishing tours and thrill rides around the island. To accommodate the growth, plans for more employee housing should be complete by 2019.
“We’re keeping it quaint and a special place, a seaside village. We’re keeping with its history and authenticity,” Randall Herrel, president and chief executive, said of the island additions. “But we’re enhancing the experiences of our guests and attracting everyone from millennials to retirees and having lots of things for them to do. We want to maintain the feel of today for the future.”
The company, which this week changed its name from Santa Catalina Island Resort Services, has been enhancing island amenities at Avalon in recent years, including the addition of Descanso Beach Club. It also manages the Mt. Ada, a former Wrigley family home, which was converted into a six-bedroom boutique hotel.
Herrel spoke with the Register about the “multimillion-dollar” upgrades on the island. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q. Tell us more about what’s next for Catalina.
A. We are adding a high-speed Cyclone; it’s a 100-passenger boat. It also has a thrill ride where you’re cruising around Catalina at about 30 knots. That starts in March. We’re also adding the Catalina Aerial Adventure and the Descanso Drop Tower. The tower is going to be 60 feet tall with two levels – a 30-foot and a 60-foot level.
Q. What’s coming to Two Harbors?
A. We’ve focused a lot so far on Avalon. Now we’re moving to Two Harbors. The main beach area is called Harbor Sands. There are going to be six palapas, a group meeting area that holds at least 250 people, chaise lounges and chairs to rent on the beach, and a dining area with waiters and waitresses. We hope that will attract the attention of additional boaters to Two Harbors. There is a camping station in walking distance, and we think we’ll get a lot more visitors (from Avalon) to spend the day at Two Harbors. We’ll provide transportation with the Cyclone to get people there in 30 to 40 minutes.
Q. How are other previously announced changes to the island – including a refresh of Hotel Atwater, more employee housing and the golf course – coming along?
A. The Hotel Atwater is almost 100 years old. We are starting a major room renovation this fall, and there will be a grand re-opening by 2020. That will be a 95-room hotel with meeting facilities, a restaurant bar in the lobby, and it’s going to be the same size it was when it originally opened.
We are still trying to figure out what to do with the golf course. We want to redo it without upping the green fee.
Q. It sounds like there are a lot of projects right now. Have you been hiring a lot?
A. We are limited by the human capacity and the number of hours a day we can ask someone to work. We’ve had 45 percent growth since 2010. It’s been a real turnaround.
We opened an Irvine office about two years ago and now have about 50 people there and have added staff in Avalon as well.
We have a lot of contractors working on the island as well. We need more contractors. With the economy picking up, it’s harder to find good contractors who are willing to work on the island.
Q. How does the drought affect construction?
A. We have drilled three test wells in Avalon Canyon. Those three wells will produce enough water to support the employee housing and additional housing for city residents or to expand the Mt. Ada, which we are discussing adding more rooms to. Hopefully, they will come online in 2019.
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