Natatorium demolition study proceeds

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The City & County of Honolulu is proceeding with an environmental impact statement to study the effects of tearing down most of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial. But Mayor Peter Carlisle said proceeding with the study does not mean he is in favor of demolishing the natatorium.

"We're waiting until we get the final EIS statement, then we are going to see what that says. Then we are going to ultimately take the effort of getting people who having opposing views to let us have them and then we are going to make a decision based on everything and all the facts," Carlisle told Hawaii News Now.

In September, 2009 Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced plans to tear down everything except the iconic arch. His decision was based on the recommendation of a task force he appointed to study the issue. That task force also called for the environmental impact statement.

Carlisle, who succeeded Hannemann, said he is going ahead with the environmental study but has yet to make up his mind on the proposed demolition.

"I'm going to listen to what everybody has to say. Get all the facts. If we need further facts, I'll ask for them, and then make a decision," Carlisle maintained.

The group Friends of the Natatorium has spent 25 years trying to get the facility restored. Its board members said the environmental study may actually help their cause by showing demolition will cost as much if not more than restoration.

The natatorium opened in 1927 in tribute to the almost 10,000 residents from Hawaii who served in World War I and the 101 from Hawaii who died in the war. It has since come to represent veterans of all wars.

Olympic gold medalist and surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku was the first to swim in the pool. Others including Buster Crabbe, Johnny Weismuller and 34 members of the International Swimming Hall of Fame are said to have swum at the natatorium.

The pool was closed in 1979 due to thirty years of neglect. Today it is fenced-off and locked up to keep people out.

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