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.