Think About It: Natatorium’s National Nod - KFVE, K5-Hawaii News Now, Local Programming

May 26, 2014

Think About It: Natatorium’s National Nod

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium a national treasure. The edifice was already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and there are plenty of supporters for this historic monument, but this latest acknowledgment won't help to solve the now 40-year old dilemma and debate about what to do with the dilapidated structure of beach, bleachers, rust, concrete, re-bars, etc.

The city of Honolulu and the state of Hawaii reached a seemingly landmark agreement last year to create a public memorial beach at the Natatorium site, while they would also preserve the archway and hopefully draw even more attention to its World War I heritage. Done; case closed, resolution reached… but not so fast. Preservationists insist that funding can be raised to revive the Natatorium with its salt water pool and grandstands. Estimates on those costs run from $50-million to $70-million. It's hard to believe those funds can realistically be found or raised as the structural entity degrades and becomes a bigger safety hazard, not to mention unusable by anybody.

Efforts at restoration of the structure by preservationists began in earnest in 1986, almost 30-years ago, and yet here we are today with a nice, new designation, but still no apparent actions about to be taken. We should move forward to save what is salvageable, better educate and inform the public what this 87-year old structure represents, and let the beach become a useful remembrance of Hawaii's World War I fighters. There is no perfect solution here, and not everyone will be happy. This memorial was built to be a light; sadly, it now stands as a blight. Oh, and the environmental statement after the city and state made a deal- it's still up to 18-months away from completion. So rest assured, this story will continue with no solution for even more years to come. Think about it…


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