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Effort to rebuild Ocean Beach clock tower goes to City Council

New London — The effort to construct a replica of the iconic clock tower at Ocean Beach Park is poised for another boost in support.

The City Council on Monday will vote on an ordinance creating a special revenue fund — some will call it a lockbox — to enable the city to accept and hold donations toward the construction and maintenance of a new clock tower. The account would allow money to accumulate without being spent on anything other than the clock tower or capital improvements at the city-owned park.

Local business owner Jeff Suntup, who has spearheaded the effort along with former City Clerk Clark van der Lyke, said he expects support from all councilors and said an approval will set in motion the start of the fundraising effort. A preliminary estimate of construction of a new clock is $400,000.

“Everybody wants to donate but I’m not taking a dollar from anybody until we get a lockbox,” Suntup said.

It's unclear if the city would contribute to the effort. The vote on the clock tower ordinance comes on the same night the council will consider a $10,000 contribution to the New London Rotary Club's rebuilding of a pavilion at Ocean Beach.  

Suntup said his interest in rebuilding the clock is not only nostalgia but for a way to provide the park with a centerpiece and something that can produce revenue for upkeep and special projects. One of his own ideas is to use revenue to enclose the park’s Olympic-sized swimming pool to create a year-round venue.

The clock tower, which stood about 140 feet tall from its base to the top of its flag pole, was first erected before the opening of the park in 1940. It had four clock faces and the steel lattice structure was topped by a catwalk and flag pole. Visible from anywhere in the park, it was the central meeting place for anyone at the beach. “I’ll meet you at the clock tower,” was a common phrase during that time.

The clock tower stood lookout over Ocean Beach for nearly 50 years until it crashed to the ground in 1988 during an attempt to lower it by crane for refurbishment.

Suntup refers to the proposed new tower as the “tower of unity.” He foresees a multi-language message and announcement board with numerous revenue-producing possibilities: cameras, an LED beacon, speakers, advertising, public service announcements, a radio platform and cell antennas. The area is notorious for bad cellphone service.

Jeff Lewis, a manager at the Verdin Company, which is a bell, clock and tower manufacturing company, wrote a letter to the City Council in anticipation of Monday’s meeting saying the company would be ready to work with the city’s public works department and engineers to finalize a design. The city still must investigate the expenses associated with the footing from the old tower and its nine pilings. It remains unclear if the footing could support a new tower.

Suntup said the new committee formed to investigate costs and raise money has support of the Save Ocean Beach group and donors big and small are lining up to support the effort.

He said the actual design of the clock, digital versus actual clock faces, has yet to be determined but digital displays allow more opportunities for revenue and advertising.

“It will be a beacon and ad generator,” Suntup said. “This clock tower is being built with the idea of unity in the community but also as a revenue generator and hopefully enough of an attraction to generate money.”


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