Arizona makeover


POSTED: Sunday, December 06, 2009

On average, 4,500 visitors per day stream through the crowded USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center to view a 20-minute film about the Japanese attack on the Pacific Fleet and take a shuttle boat to the monument that spans the sunken battleship.

Next year, on the 69th anniversary of the attack, the National Park Service will unveil a new $58 million visitor center that is almost triple in size and firmly anchored by 187-foot-deep piles.

In February, work will begin on the second phase of the renovations.

The current visitor center was built on reclaimed land in the Halawa Basin in 1980. It has settled 30 inches in some places, hitting the water level of Pearl Harbor. The facility was designed to accommodate 750,000 visitors annually. However, more than 1.5 million people visit the attraction each year, making it one of the state's top attractions.

Tom Fake, National Park Service project director, said February will be “;a soft opening”; of the first phase of the new visitor center.

That will allow the National Park Service to demolish the old visitor center and replace it with a building that will house exhibit areas built around two themes—the period in Hawaii leading up to the Dec. 7, 1941, attack and the events that occurred that day.

The two theaters, which are located near the visitor center's pier and seat 150 people, will remain. But the 20-minute film will be digitized from its current 35 mm format.





        Several events tomorrow will commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor:

» Pearl Harbor: 7:40 a.m. Allan Millett, director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, will be the keynote speaker. He is co-author of “;A War to be Won: Fighting the Second World War, 1937-1945.”; A shuttle boat will take members of the public from the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center to Kilo Pier from 6:20 to 7 a.m.
        » Kaneohe Bay: 8 a.m. Klipper Monument. Navy retired Lt. John Finn, 100, a chief aviation ordnanceman injured in the attack, will be among guests. He was among the first servicemen to receive a Medal of Honor at the start of World War II.
        » Barbers Point Golf Course Club House: 8 a.m. The site was originally designated as Marine Corps Air Station Ewa and served as the hub for all Marine aviation units heading into combat in the Pacific.
        » Hickam Air Force Base: 7:55 a.m. Atterbury Memorial Park at the base flagpole. Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona will speak at a ceremony to include a Hawaii Air National Guard F-15 flyover. U.S. Army Air Corps veterans who survived the attacks on Hickam Field will also be honored guests.
        » Ford Island: 1:30 p.m. USS Oklahoma Memorial. This is the first memorial to be held at this site. The Oklahoma lost 429 crewmembers—the second-highest loss of life (after the USS Arizona) during the 1941 attack.


Fake said the exhibition will include many of the artifacts now in storage and also an eight-minute, multivisual presentation outlining the details of the Japanese strategy and approach.

The $58 million makeover was paid by Navy funds and $29 million in private donations.

Fake said the new visitor center will feature canopy roofs, sloped to funnel the trade winds through the complex and built high to offer shade.

“;There is very little use of air conditioning,”; Fake said.

“;It will be one of the first Navy projects to be LEED certified.”;

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, launched in 1998, has become widely accepted as the standard measure of sustainability for buildings.

Nearly a quarter of the center's energy needs will be photovoltaic, and recycled materials were used throughout the center, Fake added.

Besides housing ticket booths for the USS Arizona Memorial shuttle, the Bowfin Submarine Museum, and the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Missouri Battleship Memorial on Ford Island, a 26-foot-long “;Aloha Court”; will feature a large oval floor map showing the Pacific theater in 1941 from Japan and Australia to the West Coast.

The new visitor center also will house classrooms and video teleconference and computer classrooms.

Fake said the video teleconference room will be wired so a Pearl Harbor survivor could meet and talk with students from around the world.

The entire complex is sitting on 187 piles that were sunk 187 feet in the Halawa Basin, Fake added.

The 17-acre Pearl Harbor site is built on landfill designed to settle 18 inches, but over the past 29 years, it has sunk as much 30 inches.

One of Arizona's three 17,500-pound anchors has been relocated to the oceanside walkway and will be ringed by three plaques bearing the names of the 337 sailors who survived the attack. The Park Service says at least 23 of the Arizona survivors are still alive.

The Arizona sank in less than nine minutes after an armor-piercing bomb breached its deck and exploded in the ship's ammunition magazine. During the bombing and strafing by Japanese fighters, 1,177 Arizona crewmembers were killed. The Park Service said 900 still are entombed in the hull of the battleship anchored off Ford Island.

Last year, President Bush named five Pearl Harbor sites, three sites in Alaska and one in California to be part of a new World War II Valor in Pacific National Monument, and a large stone marker noting that designation will be erected at the entrance to the new visitor center. The five Pearl Harbor sites are the USS Arizona Memorial and Visitor Center; the USS Utah Memorial; the USS Oklahoma Memorial; six chief petty officer bungalows on Ford Island; and the Battleship Row mooring quays F6, F7 and F8.

On Dec. 7, 1941, 350 Japanese bombers and fighters sank 12 naval vessels and heavily damaged nine others. More than 320 aircraft were destroyed or severely damaged.

Almost 2,400 Americans were killed and nearly 1,180 were injured. Some 185 Japanese, mostly crew members of the attacking planes, died in the operation.