SM PIER — If it’s one thing that local officials are certain when it concerns the pier’s century mark on Wednesday, it’s that a large turnout can be expected to ring in the next 100 years.
Just how big that crowd will be remains to be seen.
Regardless of the size, public safety agencies say they’re prepared.
The Santa Monica Police Department has been working with the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp. on safety measures and traffic controls for the event, deciding to close the pier to vehicular traffic that day. Traffic control officers will also be dispatched around the pier to help with the flow.
“We’re expecting a lot of people to be there,” SMPD Sgt. Jay Trisler said. “This is a historic event.”
The Big Blue Bus is planning a series of changes to its schedule that day, including closing the stops where Ocean Avenue meets Broadway and Colorado Avenue at 5 p.m. Linda Gamberg, the spokeswoman for the public transportation agency, said that a southbound lane on Ocean could also be restricted to bus travel only.
In case of an emergency, there’s also a plan B to reroute Lines 1, 7 and Rapid 7 to Fourth Street and Main Street.
“We are going to do our darndest to post many temporary signs when the changes are occurring as possible so people can check the bus stop and get regular bus stop information about where they might have to walk to get to the changed route,” Gamberg said.
If traffic from the event causes major detours and delays to the public transit system, Gamberg said she believes ridership will decline by as much as 50 percent. A 5 percent increase in boardings is expected if the service is not significantly disturbed.
The festivities will kick off at 7 a.m. with a multi-denominationall blessing at the pier’s west end where religious leaders and city officials will in a moment of silence reflect on the importance of the landmark over the past century.
The grand reopening of the pier will take place at 6 p.m. with an official ribbon cutting ceremony when a famous 60-year-old photo showing a group of Santa Monica business men lined up underneath the pier sign will be re-enacted.
The evening will feature performances from the 14-member L.A. Brass Ensemble, award-winning a cappella group Vybration, and the king of surf guitar, Dick Dale.
The celebration will conclude with a fireworks show around 8:30 p.m., the first by the pier in more than 20 years.
In preparation for the centennial, the Santa Monica Fire Department will activate its Emergency Operational Center in the Public Safety Facility, which only goes live during major events and disasters. Doing so will allow the SMFD to reach out to fire departments in other municipalities to respond to local emergencies.
A unified command post including the fire department, the SMPD and the Public Works Department will be stationed at the 1440 lot near the pier. Gerber Ambulance will also be on standby at the command post.
Fire Training Capt. Brad Graham said that the department will be hiring extra personnel specifically for the event to maintain the normal level of staffing and adequately respond to other emergencies in the city.
Los Angeles County Lifeguards also plan to staff its stations with additional lifeguards.
“There’s going to be a lot heavier crowd that evening so if anything happens with someone going into the water from the pier, we’ll be able to respond,” L.A. County Lifeguard Terry Hearst said.
Pier tenants are also busy preparing for the big event. All restaurants will be open late.
Mariasol Cocina Mexicana, which has been on the west end of the pier since the extension was completed in 1994, is expecting capacity volume of customers during much of the day, especially once the fireworks show begins, having the best seats in the house.
Don Luis Camacho, whose family owns Mariasol, said that the restaurant will debut a special menu that day featuring the best hits over the past 15 years.
“To be part of the celebration for what’s not only a Santa Monica and Los Angeles but a California and Western United States icon is huge and a lot of hard work has gone into making this a special day,” he said.