Please Hold: Mr. Jones Is Outside Fly Fishing
Lunch hour has changed - Golden State office lures workers with casting pond
IRVINE, CALIFORNIA — THE maze of mirrored buildings connected by roads with well-watered medians hardly seems the setting for weekend recreation.
Here, the 20-story towers are branded by Fortune 500 names - Apple, Texas Instruments, Wells Fargo Bank. This is Armani-suit and cell-phone country.
But there are signs that this gleaming cluster of offices may be not exactly typical. The sand volleyball court is one clue.
Then there's the one-and-a-half-acre man-made lake that hugs the base of Lakeshore Towers, a stone and glass structure home to 40 companies.
In a few weeks, dozens of bluegill and bass will be schooling in the lake. After that, property manager Diane Scott envisions a gaggle of employees gathered around the lagoon, power ties blown over their shoulders by the breeze, casting lines in the artful arcs of fly fishing.
Welcome to California's latest contribution to the life of leisure. In a culture that embraces hallway golf and surfing before work, now comes bass fishing for brown-baggers.
''I think it's a great idea,'' one lawyer says, taking a mid-afternoon break to check out the lake. ''The idea is to get people out of the building and breathing the air. That can't be all bad.''
The idea of offering fly fishing to the tenants has been tossed around since the corner stone of the office building was laid four years ago.
''Why just have a lake sit there and look pretty?'' asks Ms. Scott, the property manager. ''Why not be able to use it?''
With the release of the 1992 movie, ''A River Runs Through It,'' the popularity of fly fishing has exploded. ''Casting Ponds'' are springing up all over the West. Enthusiasts not near water don't hesitate to arc their lines over the grass in parks or on golf courses.
''The sport has grown tremendously in the last 10 years,'' says Jeff Ellis of the Fishermen's Spot store.
At Lakeshore Towers, before there could be fishermen, there needed to be fish. And before there could be fish, Scott had to find a way to keep the water clean.
When the lake was built in 1991, fish did frolic in the 1.6 million gallons of water. Soon, though, the lake grew murky. The crown jewel of the office complex became an eye sore.
Enter Ecoquatics, an Irvine, Calif.-based environmental firm. Depending completely on plants, they cleaned up the lake and paved the way for the fly-fishing venture.
There are still some snags to be worked out. The office complex insurance company must be consulted. And the Department of Fish and Game will have its say. But, so far, so good.
Employee Mike McGarry says he'd like to bring his son to fish on the weekends when he comes into work. ''My son likes to fly fish, so it would work out. If it weren't for him, though, I'd think the idea was nuts.''
The plan definitely has its skeptics.
''I can just see myself in rubber boots doing like this,'' laughs Nazli Ozen as she mimics the casting of fishing line in the Lakeshore Towers lobby. ''Next thing you know, they'll be offering duck hunting.''
But Scott defends the idea, explaining that it doesn't veer far from the company's basic philosophy. ''Tenant retention is key,'' she says. ''We've got to focus on ways to make them happy.''
A full-service restaurant is short cast from the office building. A snack shop and dry cleaners, which also polishes shoes and mails packages, are on the ground floor. And an 11,000-square-foot health club attracts employees in the evenings and on weekends.
''People pay a lot of money to have an office here,'' Scott says. ''They pay for the best of everything, and we try to give it to them.''