What to do with the Waikiki Natatorium? City considers different options

Bruno Mars even helped get a boost in funding for the landmark.

Future of Waikiki Natatorium debated

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the nation honors veterans, a decades-long dispute over the future of a deteriorating war memorial may finally end with the city’s latest plan.

Instead of tearing down the Waikiki Natatorium and creating a beach, the proposal laid out in a new environmental study, would restore most of the neglected landmark.

"This is absolute disrespect to our veterans, letting it crumble for forty years," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell after Sunday's Veteran's Day ceremony at the Natatorium.

The memorial was built to pay tribute to those from Hawaii who served in World War I. But the landmark has created a huge debate. Preservationists want to see the structure completely restored. Others want the once famous ocean pool and bleachers demolished allowing for more beach access.

“My choice is making a beach and it’s still my choice, but I respect the process that was put in place,” added Caldwell.

The preferred option laid out in the recently released environmental impact study would keep most of the structure intact. The makai and ewa walls would be taken down and replaced with a system that would allow the free flow of ocean water in and out of the pool.

While it’s not the plan the mayor wanted, Caldwell is hoping the proposed $25.6 million project becomes a public/private partnership, where taxpayers aren’t expected to foot the entire bill.

Last May, Bruno Mars told fans to support a crowdfunding project that would help restore the memorial in return for concert tickets.

“Bruno offered those tickets at a discount for the Natatorium specifically - about $30,000 was raised,” said Mo Radke with Friends of the Natatorium.

The group realizes that the money won’t get the job done, but say every dollar counts and the exposure might be even better.

"Anytime communications can get out to the younger folks it's a huge deal. Especially since this has been closed for forty years and a lot of the younger folks don't even know what this is," added Radke.

The city is accepting public comment on the proposal until December 24th. After that, a final environmental impact study could take six to nine months to complete before the actual restoration work can begin.

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