City considers new alternatives for crumbling Waikiki Natatorium

KITV, June 22, 2016
By Catherine Cruz

City considers new alternatives for crumbling Waikiki Natatorium

HONOLULU – The Waikiki War Memorial was recently designated as a national treasure even though it has been closed for almost 50 years. Its last major face-lift was 16 years ago.

Next week, the natatorium becomes the focus of a week-long series of meetings in an effort to decide what to do with it.

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“We have preservation groups and park and beach groups, veteran groups and Native Hawaiian groups that we will be sharing what we have gotten so far on the alternatives,” said Robert Kroning, director of the city’s Department of Design and Construction.

The city has been considering two alternatives: full restoration or demolition, which involves creating a new beach and rebuilding the historic arch inland.

But the city said two other alternatives will be considered next week.

The State Historic Preservation office recommended looking other options, including doing away with the pool but keeping the bleachers.

“One of alternatives has preserving the bleachers with a beach. That option requires groins to stick out further. Another keeps the bleachers with no beach, only the ocean,” said Kroning.

Next week’s meetings will involve natatorium stakeholders, but will later include the general public.

Kroning said keeping the salt water pool may prove to be a very expensive proposition because of new health department requirements.

So should it be restored no matter what the costs?

“If they can spend all that money to shorten rail, why not spend it on this?” said veteran Randy Howard.

“People see it and think it’s this old thing that’s falling apart, so just tear it down. But I think it would be interesting if they restored and provided information about it,” said Honolulu resident Caleb Woodfin.

“I think it would depend on how much it would cost, but I think it would be interesting if they had a museum or something,” added Emily Grumling who came down to the memorial for the first time.

No matter what gets decided, something’s got to happen soon. As every day passes, more cracks appear on the walls.

The city has been monitoring reports about the facility. There are cracks that have developed in the women’s showers as well as in other areas.

It’s not clear if they are cosmetic or structural, but the city said it may take action if health and safety become an issue.