An artist's rendering shows the Adventure Lagoon and Shark Island at the planned Grand Ko Olina Interactive Aquarium.

Marine park will offer
interaction with sea life

The planned Ko Olina facility
could start construction this year

Swim with dolphins and small sharks. Marvel at 1-ton tiger sharks. Snorkel a manmade reef stocked year-round with colorful, tropical fishes.

Ko Olina presents plans

Ko Olina Resort representatives will give a presentation Wednesday on the Ko Olina Marine Adventure Park to the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board. The meeting will be held in Kapolei High School's cafeteria, starting at 7 p.m.

That's what's planned for the four-acre, multi-million dollar Ko Olina Marine Adventure Park.

It's hoped the aquarium and marine park will be completed as early as spring 2007, with construction starting by the end of the year.

"Here we are sitting in the middle of the Pacific," said Ko Olina Resort Vice President Mike Nelson, "but there's a bit of a fear factor" about getting too close to marine life in the wild.

The park, he said, is aimed at bringing nature to visitors and providing a place where "it will be safe for people to see and encounter" hundreds of marine animals.

A presentation on the attraction, part of a $1 billion plan for the Ko Olina Resort & Marina, which was partially underwritten by $75 million in state tax credits for the park, will be made at Wednesday's Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board meeting.

Nelson said 80 percent of the park's customers are expected to be hotel guests, which he hopes will quell fears that the attraction will worsen West Oahu's already-heavy traffic.

The park is also expected to create 130 jobs -- a number that could decrease slightly during off-peak seasons -- and employ Hawaii and mainland marine trainers and other experts.

Nelson said the work of capturing animals for the park will likely start soon, with much of the marine life -- including rays, sharks and fish -- coming from Hawaii's waters.

The park's biggest attractions will include:

» Swimming with dolphins, large pelagic rays, small black tip reef sharks and juvenile hammerhead sharks. Nelson said visitors will be trained how to encounter the marine life.

» A "shark encounter" tank, where park attendees can walk through a dome with sharks swimming under, over and around them.

» A manmade reef in an enclosed lagoon, where snorkelers will be able to see a variety of fish. The area will also feature a shallow beach for children, along with waterfalls and small water slides from upper to lower pools.

"It really creates a world attraction," Nelson said. "From a local point of view, it creates another vibrant activity for West Oahu."

The park's construction will accompany work on the Grand Ko Olina Resort, Hotel & Spa, a massive 25-acre project to include an oceanfront hotel condominium, timeshares and a "Hawaiian village." Ko Olina resort already includes the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa, timeshares and a golf course.

Nelson said he can't yet estimate how much the marine attraction will cost. He said admission will be comparable to Sea Life Park, which costs $25 for adults.

Maeda Timson, chair of the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board, said she hasn't heard any concerns from residents about the marine park. In fact, she said, she's excited about the prospect of having such an attraction in her back yard.

"I think that it's pretty exciting," she said. "I see it as a good thing ... and an extra benefit" for the area.

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