Groups gather to discuss the future of the Waikiki Natatorium - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Groups gather to discuss the future of the Waikiki Natatorium

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Mo Radke Mo Radke
Eric Crispin Eric Crispin
Bob Loy Bob Loy
Jim Bickerton Jim Bickerton
Scott Wilson Scott Wilson
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Over the decades, there have been alternating proposals to demolish or restore the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, which has been closed and largely neglected since 1979. 

Those ideas were discussed once again in a town hall meeting organized by the American Institute of Architects-Honolulu, which brought together several groups on both sides of the issue.

The Friends of the Natatorium want to restore the pool, but that's been opposed over the years because of the possible cost.

"(It) probably won't be 100 million dollars, probably won't be 60 million dollars, but we could sit here and throw around numbers where we agree and disagree until somebody actually does a study that shows us how much it's going to be," said Mo Radke of Friends of the Natatorium. "Can we actually have that discussion?"

"From an architectural perspective, as any architect in this room will tell you, the arch is not the memorial," said Eric Crispin of AIA Honolulu, who was the project architect for a 2005 restoration. "The memorial is the pool."

The Kaimana Beach Coalition has been pushing to keep the War Memorial Arch, but to demolish the pool to create a beach. The group's Jim Bickerton showed the gathering renderings of what the beach would look like. "You can see the swimming course right outside the groins, the dredged sand bottom going all the way out to the sea," Bickerton said.

"Are we basing the Natatorium design on science or are we basing it on Photoshop?," said Radke.

While there was disagreement over keeping the pool or demolishing it, the groups agreed that the Natatorium should be maintained as a memorial for veterans of World War I. 

"It's a memorial to those people who have served. And the way they did it in 1921 is they said let's make it a memorial that people can use. And that's where we have some commonality even with some of our opponents," said Radke.

They also agreed that the area should be open and free to the public at all times, which meant that they aren't fans of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's idea to turn the Natatorium into a venue for beach volleyball or concerts.

"We can't really see ten thousand people attending volleyball events, or any other kinds of events for that matter, without some kind of significant impacts on the park," said Bob Loy of The Outdoor Circle. "That is unacceptable."

"Any kind of paid access or commercial development will restrict access," said Stuart Coleman of the Surfrider Foundation. "Hawaii has some of the bet laws in the country and we should be proud of those about guaranteeing access."

"As soon as you build something that costs a lot of money, the people who pay for that want a return on their money," said Bickerton.

The town hall's organizers were pleased with the discussion. "We had to get a brainstorming out and we had to get our common points, and I see a very good chance of a compromise solution here," said Scott Wilson of AIA-Honolulu.

Wilson said state and city officials, including Gov. Abercrombie, were invited, but those invitations were declined.

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