Governor, mayor weigh Waikiki Natatorium options

KITV4 News
By Catherine Cruz


Waikiki councilmember urges community outreach

HONOLULU — The sad state of the historic structure, boils down to money, or the lack of it.

The dilemma of what to do, has ping-ponged back and forth from restoration to demolition.

The Kaimana Beach Coalition, which supports demolition, questioned why the city wasn’t more transparent about the fact that the work on the almost completed EIS, was suspended back in May.

“There was no reason for that to amount to anything of significance, because we didn’t know where we were going with the talks with the governor,” said Mayor Peter Carlisle.

It has been three months since those talks occurred.
The city maintains, it could still move ahead with the completion of the EIS demolition option, even though the governor prefers preservation.

“There are no options off the table yet, but this is something that can be looked at,” said Carlisle.

The governor said the restoration of the crumbling war memorial was one of his campaign priorities.

“We can’t continue. It’s disrespectful, number one. And number two, the sheer liability is growing by the day. And number three, everyone wants to see that venue which is very, very local, come to a successful conclusion, resolution of the issues. It’s just falling to wrack and ruin,” said Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Among the possible uses of the Natatorium is filling in the pool for use as a volleyball stadium but the governor declined to elaborate on that option.

As for the fears about commercialization of that area, No, there won’t be anything like that,” assured Abercrombie.

But those who live nearby, or who frequent the area, are nervous about this latest reversal in the natatorium’s future.

“We need to make sure what every is decided on whatever use that it is consistent with the use by residents, hotel guests, businesses, kamaaina from all over the island.

It is one of the most popular places for families, picnickers and beachgoers to go, said Waikiki councilmember Stanley Chang.

The city’s Director of Design and Construction Lori Kahikina said she believes suspending the EIS at this point when it could be modified, could end up saving taxpayers money, not wasting it.

She clarified that if a different planning and engineering firm were hired to look at filing in the pool, it could duplicate some of the research that is already underway.

Waikiki Natatorium Back In Limbo As State Steps In

Civil Beat
By Sophie Cocke

Gov. Neil Abercrombie is considering taking the Waikiki Natatorium back from the city to pursue his own plans for the dilapidated memorial that jets out into the shallow waters of Oahu’s south shore.

Meanwhile, the city quit work months ago on plans recommended by a city task force, a decision that people involved with the project are just now hearing about.

That means about $750,000 in taxpayer-funded studies and an environmental impact statement, begun under former Mayor Mufi Hannemann, could be wasted.

Abercrombie’s office isn’t saying what the state might do with the property, which is posted with signs saying “Danger, Keep Out.”

“We are evaluating and discussing options, but have no firm decision yet about how the state will proceed,” said Jim Boersema, a spokesman for the governor. He said decision should be made later this year, in time for the legislative session.

But it appears there’s still no end to the half-century fight over what to do with the World War I tribute that’s become an eye sore in the biggest tourist area in the state.

In 2009, a 17-member task force recommended that the memorial that includes a long-unused salt-water swimming pool be torn down. The panel also said the iconic Beaux Arts arches should be moved back to the shoreline wall and the space be filled in with sand to make a beach park.

An EIS was started to evaluate that plan. But the city stopped work on the EIS in May, according to Lori Kahikina, director of the city’s Department of Design and Construction, and is awaiting word from the governor’s office on how to proceed.

“I just want a clear direction which way we are going, that is all I want,” said Kahikina. “It’s whichever direction we need to go. I have no strong feelings either way.”

That Mayor Peter Carlisle halted the EIS months ago took many people who have long been involved with the project by surprise this week.

The disruption in plans is angering the Kaimana Beach Coalition, a local community organization that has for years been involved in plans for the memorial.

“Killing the EIS is definitely a waste of public money and that is regrettable,” said James Bickerton, an attorney for the group. “But it’s also preventing us from getting valuable information about what this area can handle. And to me it’s very troubling if the state is about to launch some new venture there. We should have the environmental impact statement for the beach park so that we can understand the impact of whatever the state is planning. It gives us a good baseline.”

Civil Beat asked the mayor’s office for updates on the project in June, but received limited responses, and there was no mention that the EIS has been halted.

“The Mayor and Governor are in discussions about the future of the Natatorium,” Johnny Brannon, a spokesman for the city, wrote in a June email to Civil Beat. “That’s where things stand for now.”

On Wednesday, Carlisle told Civil Beat that the city has paid out $750,000 of a $1.3 million contract to Wil Chee Planning Inc. for the EIS and other studies.

He rejected criticism that halting the work was a waste of public resources.

“My impression is that we are a whole lot better off in studying whatever exactly is planned in the future instead of going ahead with an EIS that might not be relevant,” Carlisle said. “Why do it if you don’t know whether it is going to be relevant?”

Neither Boersema, the governor’s spokesman, nor city officials said what the plans are for the site.

But in May, Abercrombie said he was looking into converting the swimming pool into volleyball courts, Hawaii News Now reported.

This would preserve the structure, something that groups such as the Friends of the Natatorium have advocated.

But it’s sure to reignite the debate.

Bickerton said that the best use for the space, which is the most expensive piece of real estate that the state owns, is to turn it into a traditional public beach and keep out commercial interests. He said that a citizens committee made up of a broad cross-section of the community had studied all of the available options at length.

“To me, it’s really more about why is the state interfering with the very democratic process that the city went through to find a solution,” he said. “And how do we know that whatever plan the state has for this area is not going to involve commercial activity?”

Chip Fletcher, a geology and geophysics professor at the University of Hawaii, who was on the task force, said that a lot of work went into the deliberations.

“There was an awful lot of creative thinking and thought that went into it, so it was not a superficial effort,” he said. “There was a lot of work and a lot of discussion by quite a number of people.”

Still, Carlisle said that it made sense to reopen discussions.

“I’m saying if everybody got to have a discussion, everyone that is interested in this issue, all sides, and say let’s look at this in a different way and see if this might be valuable, there is no reason not to do that,” he said.

Gov. serves up volleyball idea at Waikiki Natatorium

Head Coach Scott Wong

Peter Apo

Hawaii News Now

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) – Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie is exploring the idea of converting the swimming pool at the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial into volleyball courts. It’s an idea that excites the head coach of the brand new sand volleyball team at the University of Hawaii.

Abercrombie mentioned the volleyball possibility while appearing on Sunrise, the morning show at Hawaii News Now.

“I’m working on something right now in regards to beach volleyball and a venue for it,” Abercrombie said. “I can’t elaborate on it completely right now, but think about the natatorium and think about sand volleyball and how wonderful it would be if we could feature our sand volleyball players in Waikiki.”

The Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial opened in 1927 as a tribute to the 101 servicemen from Hawaii who died in World War I and the nearly 10,000 others who served.

During the natatorium’s heyday Duke Kahanamoku and other Olympians and celebrities including Buster Crabb and Johnny Weissmuller swam there. Local swimming meets were held at the natatorium and it was a popular spot for local residents to swim and dive. But in 1979, after 30 years of neglect, the natatorium closed. Since then there have been several proposals about what to do with the structure. In 2001 the grand arch and façade was restored but nothing has been done to repair the crumbling concrete around the pool.

This year the UH women’s beach volleyball team played its inaugural season. It practiced and played matches at a spot on Waikiki Beach near the Honolulu Zoo. This summer the university plans to build practice (sand) courts on campus in Manoa.

Head Coach Scott Wong would love to someday play intercollegiate matches at the natatorium.

“I’m a coach and I just want to coach our athletes and coach them in the best place and I can’t see any better venue than the natatorium,” Wong told Hawaii News Now.

He envisions as many as four courts filling the old pool. Spectators could sit on the bleachers, bask in the sun, take a dip and enjoy the sunset.

“Best volleyball facility in the world,” Wong said. “All in all it would be a great attractive package for recruits, for coaches, for spectators and that is the overarching goal that we are trying to accomplish is to have a great program,” he added.

Nothing will be done to the natatorium without input from the Friends of the Natatorium. The group’s president, Peter Apo, said he had a “hallway conversation” about the natatorium with Abercrombie a few weeks ago.

“I really appreciate the fact that he is dedicated, so he tells me, to the preservation of the structure. Not moving the façade, preserving the structure,” Apo told Hawaii News Now.

The Friends’ first choice is to re-build and re-open the pool.

“We are going to go for first downs,” Apo said, “So we like preserving the structure. That’s 75% of the battle. Whether or not it is beach volleyball, whatever the uses, we hope he (Abercrombie) is opened minded about it and that he will at least launch some kind of queries with other stake holders as to what some of the other options might be to beach volleyball. And if beach volleyball turns out in the end to be the best public policy of pursuit, then I guess we would support it. We prefer at this point to support the pool, full restoration,” Apo concluded.

While the state owns the pool, it is managed by the City and County of Honolulu. The city is performing an environmental review that may help shape what ultimately happens to the facility.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Crews Begin Natatorium Repairs


City Officials: Seawall Deteriorating, Could Fall On Swimmers

HONOLULU — Emergency work began Monday to remove loose and cracked concrete from the crumbling seawall at the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial.

“It is a very old facility. It’s been around since the early 1900s, so there’s no doubt that it is deteriorating and it’s just the test of time,” said Collins Lam, director of the city’s Department of Design and Construction.

City contractors used a forklift to lower a raft into the water outside the facility. Workers then removed loose concrete from the lip of the seawall and lowered it into the raft. The raft then transported the debris to shore where the concrete will be recycled.

The city posted signs around the structure, asking the public to stay away.

The city is spending $80,000 on the project. Contractors are expected to complete the job in about five days.

But rising south swells Monday night and Tuesday could hamper and delay the project.

“Any kind of work on the water is a very difficult task. Being on the water you have waves, you have all kinds of surf that we have to contend with,” Lam said.

The 100-meter ocean pool was opened in 1927 as a tribute to servicemen from Hawaii who fought and died in World War I.

The future of the facility has been long debated. The city is working on an Environmental Impact Statement to determine if it is feasible to demolish the structure, restore the beach and possibly move the Natatorium’s arch farther insland.

The results of the EIS are expected in about a year.

Work to begin today on Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial seawall

Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Associated Press

Work is expected to begin today to remove cracked concrete from Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial’s deteriorating seawall.

Honolulu officials say a recent inspection revealed that portions of the concrete seawall are severely cracked and could fall into the water, injuring swimmers.

City officials are asking the public to stay away from the structure.

The 100-meter ocean pool was opened in 1927 as a tribute to servicemen from Hawaii who fought and died in World War I.

The work will include removal of cracked concrete along the entire perimeter of the pool. Workers will erect temporary scaffolds and use hand tools to remove the damaged concrete, which will be lowered onto rafts and brought to shore.

Work is expected to last five days, depending on tide and wave conditions.

Honolulu needs to decide what to do with Waikiki Natatorium

Pacific Business News
Curtis Lum
Reporter – Pacific Business News

It’s time.

It’s time for the City and County of Honolulu to decide what it wants to do with the aging and crumbling Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial.

The city Thursday issued an advisory that emergency reinforcement work will be done on the 84-year-old Natatorium beginning Monday because portions of a concrete seawall are severely cracked and could tumble into the ocean.

Work crews will erect scaffolds and remove damaged concrete from the entire perimeter of the pool. The city will place buoys in the water to keep swimmers and beachgoers away from the work, and the public is advised to stay away from the Natatorium during the work, which is expected to take five days.

But the repairs aren’t intended to preserve the monument, just keep it from presenting a hazard to the public. By the description of the mitigation work that will be done, it’s apparent the city needs to decide sooner, rather than later, the future of the memorial.

The debate on whether to restore or demolish the monument has been going on for decades. Some favor preserving the memorial dedicated to Hawaii’s World War I veterans, while others favor tearing it down and creating more beachfront for the public.

The natatorium has been closed since 1979.

In 2009, a task force commissioned by then-Mayor Mufi Hannemann recommended that the saltwater swimming pool and bleachers be demolished and removed, but that the arches that overlook the memorial be preserved. Hannemann is no longer mayor, however, and current Mayor Peter Carlisle has not announced his plans for the memorial.

But the latest announcement by the city that there is severe damage to the Natatorium’s seawall is more evidence that a decision needs to be made now before Father Time and Mother Nature decide for us.

City will address hazardous condition of Natatorium seawall

Honolulu Star-Advertiser
By Star-Advertiser staff

The city today advised people to stay away from the deteriorating concrete seawall of the Waikiki Natatorium, and said work to address the situation will take place next week.

A recent inspection revealed that portions of the natatorium’s seawall are severely cracked and could fall, injuring swimmers, the city said.

Mitigation work will begin Monday and is expected to take five days. Workers will remove cracked concrete along the pool’s perimeter. Temporary scaffolds will be erected and workers will use hand tools to remove the damaged concrete, which will be lowered onto rafts and brought ashore.

Buoys will be placed 20 feet from the seawall to keep swimmers and beach users out of the work area, the city said.

Mayor vows to make quick decision on Natatorium

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
By B.J. Reyes

A decision on the fate of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium will come “sooner, rather than later,” but Mayor Mufi Hannemann says he has no specific timetable to decide the matter.

Hannemann said yesterday he wants to thoroughly review a recommendation by a task force convened to study all options for the aging structure.

The task force concluded a series of public meetings on Thursday with a 9-3 vote to demolish the Natatorium and build two groins for a beach. The monument’s arch will be preserved and relocated nearby.

“Everyone had a chance to contribute their input,” Hannemann told reporters in his office yesterday. “I want to review it very carefully, but I’m very mindful of the fact that there’s still folks who want for us to keep the pool and the Natatorium as is.

“I’ve said from the beginning that this is a very complicated process.”

Although Hannemann is not bound by the task force’s recommendation, “the outcome certainly validated many of the points me and my administration have made about this,” he said.

In his State of the City address, Hannemann said he was considering demolishing the pool — which the city closed in 1979 — and moving the familiar 100-ton archway and its four stone eagles.

The task force was convened in May to weigh all options for the 82-year-old structure where Duke Kahanamoku once swam laps.

Supporters of the Natatorium said after the task force meeting they would continue pursuing all avenues to try and save the historic structure.

The city estimated demolition and relocation costs at $15.1 million, while the cost to stabilize the structure and restore the saltwater pool was estimated at $57 million.

“Obviously money’s going to be a challenge, from the city’s standpoint, to follow through with some of the things we have in mind,” Hannemann said.

Still standing

Honolulu Weekly, May 2010
Adrienne LaFrance

City moves forward, if slowly, with Natatorium demolition

WAIKIKI NATATORIUM WAR MEMORIAL / More than a year since Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann assembled a task force to determine the fate of the long-closed Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial, the City is taking steps toward implementing that task force’s recommendation to demolish the 83-year-old Beaux Arts swimming pool and memorial.

After scrapping restoration plans that were underway for the site when he took office in 2005, Hannemann in November 2009 said he supports the task force’s recommendation to tear down the memorial and create a beach on its footprint.

“The City has just recently signed a contract with planning consultant Wil Chee Planning to perform the [environmental impact statement],” wrote City spokesman Bill Brennan in an e-mail last week. “[Wil Chee] is finalizing the scope of work before the company begins the EIS process.”

That process requires the City to secure a slew of permits from various City, State and federal agencies. Wil Chee is famously tight-lipped about its dealings with the City, and refers all inquiries back to the Department of Design and Construction, whose deputy director did not return interview requests before press time. Preservationists, however, say their fight to prevent the crumbling memorial from being torn down is just getting started.

”The National Trust for Historic Preservation has made it very clear that they will help invoke whatever federal and state regulations are in place to prevent such an action from being taken,” says Friends of the Natatorium Vice President Donna Ching. “The legal road is a very long and treacherous one for the city. And a costly one. We don’t think that they could ever get there.”

Preliminary estimates by the City’s task force found demolition would cost at least $15 million. While that’s still far less than restoration and ongoing maintenance that restoration would require, Ching notes that just a decade ago, the state spent $1.2 million on an EIS process that led to the decision to restore the memorial.

“I’m not sure how Wil Chee is going to find anything different,” says Ching. “All the ocean conditions are the same. The regulations and constraints on the site, like the marine conservation district, are all the same. It’s all been thoroughly studied. This has all been done.”

Above all, Ching says the historic protections in place–and those willing to fight for them–mean the City won’t be pulling up bulldozers to Kaimana Beach anytime soon.

“I don’t know how the City thinks that they’re going to get the approval to knock down a war memorial that’s a national and historic registered facility,” says Ching. “It’s a big waste of time and an even bigger waste of money.”

Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial to be torn down

A rendering of what the Memorial could be. Image from the City & County of Honolulu.

Hawai‘i Magazine
by: Chris Bailey

The battle over the fate of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial—the 82-year old saltwater swimming pool and war monument—has seemingly reached an end.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann this weekend decided that the natatorium’s pool and bleachers be demolished. What will replace the natatorium in the prime Waikiki oceanfront acreage it now occupies? Beach. About 100 meters (328 feet) of white sand beach, to be exact. The natatorium’s distinct beaux-arts entrance arch will be relocated further inland, serving as an entryway to the new stretch of coastline.

As we reported last month, a city-appointed task force recommended that the natatorium be torn down and the beach extended. Mayor Hannemann was left to make the final call. His decision to stick with the task force’s plan was not surprising to many—Hannemann had expressed his desire to raze the natatorium in the past.

Built in 1927, the natatorium war memorial honors the 101 Hawaii residents who died in World War I. Several world-class athletes swam in the natatorium’s pool in its early years, including legendary Hawaii surfer Duke Kahanamoku (who was the first to take a swim in the pool when it opened on Aug. 24, 1927) and fellow Olympians Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weismuller.

The state closed the natatorium’s pool to the public in 1979 and deemed it a health hazard a year later. In 1995, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the natatorium on its list of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the U.S. The memorial’s facade was partially refurbished in 2000, but pressing health concerns over the condition of the saltwater pool kept the project from completion.

Despite today’s announcement, the natatorium won’t be torn down anytime soon. Demolition requires an environmental impact statement, permits, extensive planning and design and, of course, funding—about $15.1 million, according to the city.

“The entire process could take eight years or so, and there will be plenty of time for citizen input into the process,” said Hannemann.

We’ll keep you posted on as news breaks on the future of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. As always, you can sound off on the Natatorium’s fate here, or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Photos: (top & bottom) artist renderings of Natatorium site after demolition, City & County of Honolulu; (middle) Waikiki Natatorium at twilight, as it looks today,