Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Gov. Linda Lingle and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano inspected damage to the sinking visitor center yesterday. Daniel Martinez, right, Pearl Harbor historian, talked with them. A fund-raising campaign is under way.

Lingle wants to halt
WWII memorial’s fall

Visiting Arizona Gov. Janet
Napolitano pledges her state's aid

Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund

For more information, visit www.pearlharbormemorial.com or call toll-free 866-DEC-1941.

Pearl Harbor survivor Everett Hyland, 82, wonders if he will still be alive when the aging USS Arizona Memorial visitors center is replaced with a new $27 million building by 2008.

"I'm still alive, and I would like to see it," said Hyland, who was 18 on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed his battleship, USS Pennsylvania.

He has been a volunteer at the visitor center for the past 11 years and has watched it slowly deteriorate.

Yesterday, he and six other Pearl Harbor survivors were honored guests at a public ceremony presided over by Gov. Linda Lingle and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to call attention to the national fund-raising campaign to rebuild the center.

Napolitano and Lingle toured portions of the 19,325-square-foot visitor center, which has sunk as much as 30 inches and is flooded up to eight inches in some areas. They also laid a floral wreath at the memorial.

"The urgency to raise the funds and get the construction under way is immense right now," Lingle said.

Daniel Martinez, National Park Service chief historian, said the center has been lifted four times, which has taken a toll on the structure. The leveling caused cracks in the concrete walls, which exposed steel reinforcing bars to moisture. It sits shoreside of the memorial that straddles the sunken battleship, where 1,177 sailors are still interred inside the sunken hull.

"As a result," Martinez told the two chief executives, "the building has a shelf life we're estimating anywhere from six to eight years."

He said attendance figures have more than doubled over original estimates. This means that more than 40 million people have walked through the crowded building since it was opened by the National Park Service in 1980.

Tom Shaw, president and chief executive officer for the Arizona Memorial Museum Association, said the reason the visitor center is shifting is because it is built on a landfill. The center was built on 11 acres of land dredged from Pearl Harbor. And the Navy land that is home to the visitor center sits at the mouth of Halawa Stream.

Martinez said the land under the visitor center has essentially "liquefied."

Shaw said the design contract will be awarded this fall.

The Navy will build the new 27,400-square-foot visitor center. Planners envision two 150-seat educational theaters, a concession area, ticket office, security room, restrooms and administration and support areas.

Matthew Sgan, the association's senior vice president, said $11 million has been raised nationally so far.

Sgan said construction is expected to cost about $27 million, and an additional $7 million is needed for expenses and endowments. Napolitano said the sunken battleship is "a big part of Arizona life."

Anchors from the 608-foot battleship adorn the visitor center at Pearl Harbor and the state capital in Phoenix. The battleship's bells are hung not only in the visitor center, but also at the University of Arizona.

"The people of Arizona have a great relationship and a close one with the USS Arizona, so I know they'll pitch in to help," she said. "We will never forget the heroics, courage and the bravery displayed by the many men and women who fought and served our country at this place so many years ago."

E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://archives.starbulletin.com