Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, May 26, 1999

Water park makes
splash in dry Kapolei

ONE of the cool things about being an "investigative humorist" is getting to pry into things that are none of your business and, if you adopt the proper attitude, some people even let you get away with it.

That's how I ended up this week out at the spanking new Hawaiian Waters adventure park, eating about a pound of rich red Kapolei dirt. The sprawling 25 acre park, with 21 water slides, a wave pool, river run, party facilities and food courts has sprung up on the dusty rolling hills above the Ewa plains. Dusty being the key word on this day.

The park will open Friday. I repeated that phrase several times. Because, looking around at rock-wall builders building rock walls, roofers roofing, hammerers hammering and hundreds of workers generally scurrying all over the place, it sure didn't look like it was going to open Friday. Or next Friday, for that matter.

"Yes, it looks like a car wreck to me, too," said an amazingly relaxed David Busch, the park director, as he led me through the confusion. But, he assured me, everything would come together in time for the opening.

Actually, all of the flumes, pipes, pools and slides are completed. Most of the activity involved landscaping, or more accurately, "land transformation." Hundreds of extremely confused coconut trees have been planted. I imagined them talking among themselves. Hey, weren't we in Kahaluu this morning? Where's the rain? What's that dumpy little tree right there? What the hell am I doing next to a cactus?

Right now, the trees and plants seem as out of place as a potted hibiscus on the moon. But given how fast things grow in Hawaii, in a few months the gardening implements of choice will be machetes and weed whackers.

I stopped to watch a team of lava rock wall builders. Something was odd. Then it hit me: speed. It was like watching a video tape of regular rock wall builders on fast forward. I wondered how park management had gotten these 300-pound guys to move so fast and, more importantly, whether they could all meet at my house later.

Busch and I climbed to the very top of the project, where the entrance to the "Cliffhanger" chutes loom like enormous shotgun barrels. This is the big kahuna of all the rides. People -- people other than me, that is -- will climb into the barrels and plunge downward through the closed pipes 6-1/2 stories in about four seconds. The only way I'm going to go down 6-1/2 stories in four seconds is in an elevator. Preferably, one with hand rails.

But from that elevation, the water park spreads out like a child's fantasy. I could see the future: the lives of moms and dads islandwide are going to become hell. You could almost hear on the Kapolei breeze the incessant whining of thousands of kids begging to be taken to Hawaiian Waters.

And the park will need them. To be successful, Busch says they have to attract about 250,000 island residents and at least as many tourists a year. Considering that more than 6,000 people applied just to work at the park, those expectations don't seem unreasonable.

I walked back to my truck across asphalt still hot from being poured that morning amazed that Hawaii finally has a water park as grand as Orlando, Las Vegas and other tourist-oriented destinations. And more amazed that it could possibly open in four days.

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

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