Great Star-Advertiser op-ed on the Natatorium! Read it and post a comment in support

A very powerful and eloquent opinion piece in Wednesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, calling for action that has been delayed far too long: action to preserve and then restore the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.

Six respected leaders joined together to issue this call. Leaders from the Hawaiian community, from the military, from the veteran community, from our water sports community, and from the professional engineering community.

A 1973 Star-Advertiser file photo of the Natatorium

A Star-Advertiser photo of the Natatorium in 1973.

If you are a subscriber to the Star-Advertiser, you can read the op-ed here. Once you’ve read it, please join the lively debate in the comments. Speak your mind. Speak up for the Natatorium!

If you’re not a subscriber, you can buy a one-day pass to the Star-Advertiser online for just 99 cents. More than worth it to read this great piece and then make your voice heard in support!

For those who can’t get into the site, we reproduce the full text below. Mahalo to co-signers Peter Apo, Steve Baldridge, Brian Keaulana, Benjamin Mixon, Bill Smith, and Bill Thompson. They’re standing up for what is right. Let’s hope our elected leaders — and all of us — do too.

Here’s the text:

How we deal with Natatorium will put our character to the test

Richard Borreca argues that 32 years of “dithering and delay on the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium has got to end” (“Natatorium is a problem that just won’t go away,” Star-Advertiser, On Politics, Oct. 4).

We agree.

But we do not agree with those who say that demolition or a change of use is in the public interest or the less expensive financial alternative to restoration.

The city, while led by Mayor Jeremy Harris, spent $4.2 million restoring the facade, bathrooms, bleachers and volleyball court and built a new district lifeguard office. Mayor Harris’s and the Honolulu City Council’s total $11.5 million appropriation for the project also would have paid for a re-engineered pool that would provide ADA access to the ocean for the elderly, and disabled. Had the so-nearly-realized restoration been completed, we would be celebrating its return to public use and swimming there today. But the succeeding mayoral administration, under Mufi Hannemann, swept into City Hall with a passion to undo important major projects undertaken by Harris, beginning with a stunning reversal of a fully designed and permitted Natatorium restoration.

It not only stopped the restoration, but went into high gear to demolish the entire structure. It pursued demolition with a spirit of irreverence that dishonored the memory of more than 10,000 warriors from Hawaii who are memorialized by the Natatorium. Auwe! We are as tired of sloshing through debate as some are of having to listen to it, but Borreca’s column cannot be left unchallenged. To spare your readers from having to navigate a manifesto on the subject, let it suffice for us to say here that the real consequences of demolition lie far beyond what most people realize. The Natatorium serves as a sand retention revetment; it created San Souci beach. Demolish the Natatorium and San Souci is history.

Alternative uses like creating additional new beach or volleyball courts are not permitted shoreline uses and would have to survive a lengthy and daunting county, state and federal permitting process, not to mention court challenges.

The Hawaii Supreme Court has already ruled, in 1973, against demolition for any other use of the shoreline expect for a Natatorium (defined as a swimming pool in Act 15 of the Territorial Legislature, 1921). The cost of demolition to effect the new uses proposed, even if successful, rivals or exceeds the cost of restoration. So much for the argument that it’s cheaper to demolish.

Further, the structure sits in a declared marine sanctuary. Demolition-triggered reef damage is a significant threat. A new beach, according to an Army Corps of Engineers study, would require replacing the Natatorium with the equivalent of a three-wall small boat harbor replicating the footprint of the Natatorium walls and its sand retention function to protect San Souci as well as the proposed added 100 feet of new beach. Go figure.

The proposal to “preserve” the arch by moving it is not an engineering possibility. It would have to be rebuilt as a reproduction. So much for preservation.

Finally, hundreds of pages of scientific and expert studies, including a $1.2 million environmental impact statement, show the least expensive, least environmentally harmful option is full restoration.

The idea of demolishing the Natatorium ranks up there with the attempts to demolish Iolani Palace for a parking lot and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for a new high-rise hotel. The Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium is the last of the great historic treasures of the Waikiki shoreline. How we respond to this challenge will mark the greatness or failure of who we are as a people.
Peter Apo is an Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee; Steven M. Baldridge is president of BASE Structural Engineering; Brian Keaulana is a waterman; retired Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon is former commander of the U.S. Army Pacific; William M. Smith Jr. is an Olympic gold medalist and former director of the city Water Safety Department; and William Y. Thompson, is president of the 442nd Veterans Club.

Categories: Friends of the Natatorium, News coverage, Statement, Uncategorized, and Veterans.


  1. Sandy Keepers

    I hope truly, that the War Memorial is restored to it’s former beauty. It’s a historical landmark, a beautiful pool with so much history behind it.

  2. Buck Giles

    The spirit of the Natatorium lay dormant awaiting the Aloha of the people of Hawaii to give it a new beginning.

  3. Haulani Fuller

    The Natatorium was built in memory and honor and respect. What is so difficult to grasp in the idea that it needs to and should be restored and maintained. And MOST importantly, Waikiki has been damaged enough, her shores do not need any further destruction done to them!!!