USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center Is Sinking

Daniel Martinez
Daniel Martinez

By Beth Hillyer

(KHNL) - It's one of the country's most famous national monuments.

But the visitor center at the USS Arizona Memorial is sinking!

Efforts to fix it come at a price tag of about $40 million.

As it is now, the center was not built to handle its 1.5 million annual visitors.

It is overcrowded and even worse, it's sinking.

There is mold on the walls, the sidewalks are slumping and salt water is seeping up through the ground.

"This entire structure - the 2 theatres - have sunk together as one unit two feet," said Daniel Martinez of the National Park Service.

Built in 1978, it's one of the nation's most visited, most important parks.

Still, groundwater keeps bubbling up

"What we have here is seepage on the building you can see it's been going on for some time," explained Martinez. "One of the issues of the building is as it settles the water level is entering the basement and it's coming out in certain area."

The problem involves public safety.

"At a congressional point we will not pass earthquake standards," said Martinez.

A study shows the building will last between 3 and 8 years so a new visitor center is in the works.

The park service is holding public hearings about it's plans.

Neighbors learned about the size and scope of the new visitor center.

Concerns include noise and traffic.

Still others worry about the atmosphere.

The park service assures the public collections and exhibits like the Arizona's anchor will remain. So will the original films.

But there will be new exhibits.

"Some people want to know more about the attack, the technical part of the attack - where the planes came in and the facility we have here the exhibit area is really undersized," said Project Manager Jon Teicher.

And the new center would be a gateway to the other Pearl Harbor exhibits.

"They see the Arizona Memorial, but there is more to the story. There are partners trying to tell their piece of the story

Already one concern how will visitors get out to the memorial if the visitor center is closed for construction.

Not a problem, say project managers. They will keep the center open and build the new project in phases

They could break ground on the new center in 2008.

But depending on donations, they may only be able to build one phase at a time.