Leeward Residents Hopeful of New Ko Olina Disney Resort

Cindy Price
Cindy Price
Emma Akima
Emma Akima
Luke Scanlan
Luke Scanlan

KO OLINA (KHNL) -- The magic of Disney comes to Hawaii. The Ko Olina Resort on Oahu's west side will be home to Disney's first family resort outside of its theme park developments.

You won't find a Matterhorn, or any fast rides, but the new facility will incorporate the culture of our islands. It will also bring hundreds of jobs to the leeward coast.

Disney executives pledge to create an experience that celebrates and honors Hawaii and its people. Wednesday's news brings hope and some healthy skepticism among those who live on the leeward coast.

An open field in Ko Olina is empty right now, but soon Disney will transform it into a resort hotel.

"It's good," said Cindy Price, a Maili resident. "We need that. We need a lot of business on this side."

The hotel will be built next to the Marriott hotel.

Twenty-one acres, 800 rooms and villas, and a thousand new jobs on the leeward coast.

Folks who live on this side of the island are hopeful.

"I think that's good if they're going to create jobs for everybody," said Emma Akima, a Waianae resident.

"She's looking for a job," said Price, pointing to her daughter. "She's just getting out of school. It would be good for her. It would be good for me, too. I need a job."

But others remain skeptical.

"What are they minimum wage jobs or are they 20 hours a week or are they full time employment?" asked Luke Scanlan, a Nanakuli resident.

In a news conference Wednesday morning, Disney executives said they want to creating an atmosphere that reflects the authentic beauty of Hawaii.

"Embracing the location and the people that you ultimately intend to do business, is probably one of the key success factors of any successful development and for us it's no different," said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Governor Linda Lingle said it's an opportunity for local entertainers to have a venue.

"This project by definition will use Hawaiian entertainment," she said. "It can't be successful if they're going to use -- not to denigrate any other culture -- but some other culture. This is a Hawaiian experience."

Groundbreaking is scheduled for next year, and the resort is set to open in 2011. Folks on the leeward coast hope the new project helps the local economy.

"I guess it's good for the island and it's good for the people here," said Price. "Even if it's the mainland people, that's the only thing that comes over here, and helps us create our island."

Hoping Disney's magic spreads to the leeward coast.

Disney executives plan to meet with Native Hawaiian and other local leaders so they move forward in a respectful manner.