Community leaders discuss vision for Waikiki Natatorium

Future of aging,crumbling structure still in limbo

 UPDATED 9:09 AM HST Nov 16, 2012
HONOLULU -

It's a question state and local leaders have been kicking around for years: What to do with the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium? Thursday night, the community weighed in on plans for the crumbling war memorial that's been closed for more than 30 years.

"This was a chance to get all the community groups in one room and talk vision," said Scott Wilson from the American Institute of Architects.

The AIA hosted the forum to bring together six groups and the public to share their views on what to do with the Natatorium. Ben Acohido a representative from the Veterans of Foreign Wars says he doesn't want the memorial to disappear and believes " it teaches the younger generations the sacrifices made their warriors and we should keep the facade."

One of the more vocal groups, the Friends of the Natatorium, agreed with the VFW. It wants the wants to preserve the 80-year-old pool and memorial.

However, many debated concerns about the cost.

"Probably won't be $100 million dollars, probably won't be $60 million. We could sit around and throw around numbers until someone does a study to show us how much it is going to be, can we actually have that discussion?" asked Mo Radke from Friends of the Natatorium.

However, the Kaimana Beach Coalition believes it would be less expensive to just turn the dilapidated pool into a public beach park.

"A beach park is a guaranteed thing to stay open and free to the public and that's why we support that." said James Bickerton from the coalition.

Representatives from the Surfrider Foundation agree with Kaimana's views about the beach park.

"To try to build something along the beach and recreate something that was having problems in the beginning would be very foolish," said Stuart Coleman from the Surfrider Foundation.

Despite the differing views: one thing all the groups agreed upon was not to commercialize the historic site. That's something many worry could happen if Governor Abercrombie's plans are put in place. The governor has said he wants to turn the aging structure into a sand volleyball venue.

Many residents also attended last night's forum. Daisy Murai, who remembers swimming at the Natatorium said the closed off structure is an emotional piece of Hawaii's history. She hopes, no matter what happens to Natatorium, it is a transparent process with the community's best interests at heart.

"A lot of the public input should be put in because it's really for the public," said Murai. "I know the Natatorium is really important for Hawaii."

The AIA says city and state officials were invited to the meeting but declined. The architecture group hopes to present these ideas to the state in hopes of moving forward with the Natatorium's future.

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