Friday, July 30, 1999

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Ex-legislator Peter Apo used to swim in the pool.
He introduced a bill for restoration in 1987.

Citizens’ group says
Natatorium can work

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Kay Napoleon, 90, remembers that August day in 1927 when the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium first opened.

Natatorium "There were flags all upon here," said Napoleon, looking around what today is a decaying stone structure.

"I remember we had a big diving platform right there, all decorated, I remember that."

Napoleon's late husband, Walter, was superintendent of the pool for nearly two decades in the 1930s and 1940s.

"I hope to see this pool dedicated again," Napoleon said. "That is my goal."

Napoleon and other members of the Friends of the Natatorium met with the news media at the site of the historic structure yesterday. It was the first time since recent setbacks to full restoration in the courts that the Friends group has held a news conference.

Ron Yasui, treasurer, said, "The facts about the restoration have been purposely obscured by a few selfish individuals."

Opinions have been formed "based on falsehood and rhetoric" from the Kaimana Beach Coalition, the group opposed to full restoration.

"It's just frustrating because this has been festering for the last 20 years that I know of," Yasui said.

The pool has been closed since 1979 due to health concerns.

Retired Adm. Bruce Smith, a Friends member, said questions raised by opponents about water quality in the restored pool are baseless.

Smith reiterated the city's view that water will circulate in and out of the pool 10 times a day. In its heyday, the natatorium turned over every three days, he said.

The Friends, who are expected to propose a plan to operate the pool, said they have no intention of holding commercially operated entertainment shows to fund the facility.

Smith said revenue would come from concessions, a museum, a gift shop and admissions for swim meets and group use. Donna Ching, a Friends member, said the group would need about $100,000 to operate the pool if it can get the city, state or some other entity to agree to provide lifeguards and other staff.

The Friends of the Natatorium also echoed Mayor Jeremy Harris' contention that it would be nearly impossible to get approval from both the state and national historic preservation agencies to do a partial restoration as proposed by the Kaimana coalition.

Rick Bernstein, spokesman for the Kaimana coalition, said the Friends oversimplified his group's positions and overlooked many of the points brought out in recent court proceedings.


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