Mayor is correct about natatorium


POSTED: Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium was closed 30 years ago because the pool was unsafe and unhealthy. Given alternative recommendations by a task force he appointed four years ago, Mayor Mufi Hannemann has made a prudent decision to restructure and move the memorial arches inland and demolish the natatorium, creating beach in its place.

Former Mayor Jeremy Harris had planned to restore the natatorium where Duke Kahanamoku once swam, but Hannemann reversed that decision upon taking office. Harris' plan was figured to cost $6.1 million, but the Hannemann administration estimates the true cost of full restoration at $43 million; moving the memorial and demolishing the natatorium is figured to cost $15 million.

The pool was closed in 1963 and was followed by designs for frequent flushing and daily monitoring of water quality to reduce staphylococcus, a bacteria that causes pus in boils and abscesses. Health concerns persisted and the pool has remained closed.

The task force recommended demolishing the dilapidated bleachers and saltwater swimming pool, recognizing the health problems. Four members of the 17-member task force did not vote and the others voted 9-3 in September in favor of the memorial's relocation and the pool's destruction.

Task force member Fred Ballard, a retired Navy chief petty officer, was in the minority opposing removal of the Olympic-sized pool. He said he expected to be on the losing side in the task force but said he will not let Hannemann's decision be implemented “;without a battle.”;

Indeed, the project could take eight years, including completion of an environmental impact statement, permits, planning and design works. That process should provide a public forum for Ballard, former state Rep. Peter Apo, president of Friends of the Natatorium, and other opponents to contest the project.

The memorial was erected in honor of the 101 Hawaii residents who died in World War I. Hannemann said he agreed with the task force majority's conclusion that the best way to honor them, “;resolve the long-standing issues over the facility's upkeep and meet the needs of our residents and visitors for more beach space was to rebuild the memorial arches and demolish the aging structure.”;

Demolition of the pool should not be considered an affront to those who gave their lives in World War I. The memorial will remain, although in a different place, to honor those war heroes.