Hawaii County

Pacific island center
planned at

A $150 million cultural facility
is proposed by a Christian group


Friday, January 10, 2003

» The parent organization of the University of the Nations on the Big Island is Youth With a Mission. U of N Bencorp, which plans to build a Pacific Islands Cultural Center in Kona, was incorrectly named as the parent organization in a Page A1 article Tuesday. It is a separate but affiliated group.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

By Rod Thompson

KAILUA-KONA >> A Pacific Islands Cultural Center, comparable to the Polynesian Cultural Center at Laie, would be built a mile south of downtown Kailua-Kona under a plan proposed by a Kona Christian education group.

The parent organization of the nondenominational University of the Nations-Kona hopes to have 400 condominium units completed by 2005 and begin work on the cultural center by that time, according to a description of the $150 million project prepared for the state Land Use Commission.

The 62-acre site, immediately south of the university's present 45-acre campus, is now designated for agriculture and has been used in the past for cattle grazing.

The University of the Nations Bencorp, the parent of the university, is asking the Land Use Commission for a change to urban designation. A hearing is set for March 5 to 6 at 9:30 a.m. at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel.

The cultural center would be "a first-class visitor destination intended to present the authentic story of the cultures from the Pacific regions," the project description said.

Although similar in concept to the Polynesian Cultural Center, the Kona center would be smaller in land area but would cover wider cultural areas, including Micronesia and Melanesia, said Mark Spengler, president of the organization.

Features of the Kona center would include various model villages, a museum, a children's theme park, a traditional crafts pavilion, a luau area, a lagoon for canoes and fishnets, restaurants, shops, an auditorium and possibly an IMAX theater, the description said.

The facility would be designed so that people could come to eat various ethnic foods without paying admission to the center, Spengler said.

The Kona coast now has relatively few visitor destinations, the description said. The cultural center would "add significantly" to Kailua-Kona's economy, and proceeds would be retained in Kona for investment in the university.

While the $60 million center would begin in 2005, 103 of the planned 400 condominiums units are already under construction and are 75 percent sold, the description said. That part of the project is expected to cost $90 million.

The condominium units, arranged in 21 two- and three-story buildings spread over 21 acres, will be priced from $167,500 to $502,500. Some will be bought by friends of the university, and some will be used to house students at the university, the description says.

University officials are in the very early stages of explaining the project to the public, Spengler said. A major comment so far from the county Department of Water Supply is that there is enough water for the condominiums but not for the cultural center. The water issue is being negotiated, Spengler said.

Four and a half acres will be used for expansion of the "nontraditional" university.

Spengler explained that the university, consisting of seven colleges, teaches an "updated version" of being a missionary to students from 100 countries.

"We believe everybody to have a mission in life," he said.

Students spend 12 weeks in classrooms followed by 12-week practicums in other countries. The university is not accredited, but it grants degrees up to the master's level in some tough subjects such as Greek and Hebrew.

The university does not teach "the right way" to be a Christian because there are many right ways, Spengler said.

County of Hawaii

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --