Ocean Beach in New London offers more than just the beach

NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH)– All this week, News8 is getting a jump on summer and heading to the beach. Day four takes us to Ocean Beach in New London, which is a lot more than just a beach. It’s a boardwalk and amusement park, concert venue, arcade, and mini-golf course.

Related: Big changes happening at Hammonasset Beach in Madison

This land at the mouth of the Thames River used to look very different.

“All this was neighborhoods then the 1938 hurricane came through and just took out everything,” said Ocean Beach General Manager David Sugrue.

Sugrue doesn’t go back that far, but he started coming to the rebuilt Ocean Beach as a kid. He even got offered a job here when he was 15.

“I told him I was 16. I lied,” Sugrue said. “Next thing I know, I had a spatula in my hand and I was cooking in one of the concession stands, and that guy’s still my boss today.”

Ocean Beach is owned by the City of New London, but managed by a private company. Sugrue became General Manager of Ocean Beach in 1999, and there’s a lot to manage. There is the huge beach, old-time boardwalk, plus an olympic-sized swimming pool, a splash pad, kiddie rides, water slides, the only waterfront arcade in the state, and a minigolf course that they are sprucing up for this summer. A new intercom installed this year will help reach beachgoers in case there’s a lost kid.

Related: Silver Sands: a no-frills, wildlife dedicated beach in Milford

The park has had its ups and downs. Hard times meant some of the attractions closed in the 1990s. It was saved by people called Save Ocean Beach, or “S.O.B.’s.”

“That’s what they call themselves as well,” laughs Sugrue. “Just a great group of people that put their time, energies, money into the park. They do fundraising, they do a cleanup every year.”

With so much going on, it takes a lot of work to make Ocean Beach run, but the people who do it make it sound more like fun.

“I mean, when you wake up in the morning and you watch the sun come up and you watch this place come alive, and the first thing you hear is kids giggling coming across the boardwalk, dragging their surfboards – it doesn’t get any better.”

Related: New Haven’s Lighthouse Park has been hosting summer fun for almost 100 years

With movies on Tuesdays, sock hops on Thursdays, live bands on Fridays, and fireworks three times during the summer, there is always something going on at the beach that is more than a beach.

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