Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, December 8, 1997

Get the pool
off the beach, brah!

I SN'T it kind of silly to have a concrete swimming pool sitting in the ocean at the most famous beach in the world?

This is something like building an indoor ice skating rink on the frozen surface of the world's most popular ice-skating pond. Or building an indoor manmade-snow skiing stadium on the snow-covered slopes of an Olympic ski village.

That's the main reason I'm against restoring the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium to its original swimming pool splendor. The other reason is that it will cost too damn much during these tough economic times. But complaining about the dumb ways the government squanders our money while it also talks about raising taxes apparently is a waste of time.

Forget the natatorium. I want to see a moratorium. A moratorium on the spending of any public money on anything but essential services as long as the mayor, governor, City Council or State Legislature utters a word concerning raising taxes in any form.

That means we don't build swimming pools, change the name of schools, university buildings, roads or counties; design new logos; name official state fish or other varmints; sponsor race cars; or study the feasibility of anything that will not result in the immediate infusion of cash into government coffers. Wait. Strike that last part. I don't think we can afford to pay for anything that has the word "feasibility" attached to it.

If our fearless leaders are even considering raising taxes in any form, that means we don't have enough money to conduct the basic business of government. We shouldn't be considering adding bumper stickers, whistles, bells and other optional equipment to an economic machine struggling to plod forward.

BUT that's not the main reason I'm against restoring the natatorium. I think it's just a little kookie these days to have a swimming pool smack on a beach in Waikiki, especially when beach space is at a premium.

A memorial swimming pool in honor of World War I veterans was a good idea at the time -- 70 years ago. Back then, it made sense to put a swimming pool by the ocean, a vast source of available water. Sticking a swimming pool on a relatively isolated stretch of Waikiki beach was brilliant. It was a cheap way to build an Olympic-style swimming pool that eventually would showcase Hawaii's great swimming talents like Duke Kahanamoku.

But swimming pool technology has made great leaps forward. Honolulu is lousy with swimming pools now. It is cheaper and safer now to have swimming pools away from the ocean.

Keeping up a swimming pool inside an ocean environment would be an extravagance today. There's more to maintaining a salt-water pool than simply letting the ocean wash in and out.

The current price for restoration being thrown around is $11.5 million. If you believe that would be the final cost you're swimming in dreamland.

But forget the cost. The point of a memorial is to remember the dead and their contributions. Restoration of the graceful archway that was the entrance to the natatorium would serve that purpose. There is no inherent connection between Hawaii's World War I veterans and a swimming pool. They were not known as the Fighting Porpoises or the Hawaii Synchronized Swimming Battalion.

The idea that our appreciation of veterans would somehow be lessened by a bunch of scantily clad babes in bikinis on the beach versus a bunch of scantily clad babes in a swimming pool on the beach is just silly.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or

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