The official center of the Honolulu War Memorial controversy.



The Natatorium is the structure with pool and arena seating, resting half on the beach, half on the water.--©1998 Rudolf Helder--

Honolulu is the place where we live and play. It's a great place if you dissect it carefully and end up with the pieces that work for you. There are, just like with any other city, good points and bad points about it, but it is what you get out of it yourself that makes it interesting. The beach is one of the places where people can be happy and without worry. However, there always seem to be businessmen and politicians who think they must pursue interests contrary to the very people who keep them prospering. Controversies arise when decisions are forged and the silence of citizens turns vocal. If you think you can contribute to the discussion send your email to
96/07/02 Editorial Article in Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Describes an interest that is growing in restoring the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium. After decades of apathy and buck-passing between the city and state governments, it's encouraging to learn that something might happen to eliminate the crumbling eyesore and bring it back to its former glory.
96/07/23 Editorial in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin
A strong case for proceeding with the plans to restore the pool at the Waikiki Natatorium was made in the Star-Bulletin. Written by Nancy Bannick and Patricia Vigueras-Doo, the article noted that the plans and specifications for restoring the pool, bleachers and facade have been approved by the state and are ready for bid. However, the state doesn't have money to pay the estimated $11.5 million cost. The Friends of the Natatorium plans to raise the funds, oversee construction and operate the facility.
96/08/05 Feature Article in Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Art Freedman of Honolulu was curious about a bronze plaque facing the dilapidated Natatorium in Waikiki. It has the names of U.S. soldiers and sailors upon it, but, curiously, several are listed as British. Huh? thought Freedman, and he quite rightly checked with WatDat? for an explanation.

The Natatorium was built during a national craze for natural-water swimming during the 1920s, and when it was dedicated in 1927, it also became a memorial to Hawaii citizens lost in World War I.

[It concludes:]

But they were all citizens of Hawaii. This sacrifice should be remembered if and when the Natatorium is restored.

96/08/21 Letter to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Natatorium could be a hit as sand volleyball court

I'm writing in praise of Bruce Anderson's Aug. 10 View Point column regarding the Natatorium in Waikiki.

I think the Natatorium should be restored because of its history and beauty. The most practical idea is to turn it into a sand volleyball court.

This is a growing sport in Hawaii, and throughout the world. I couldn't think of a better place for spectators to watch this sport. It would draw local crowds as well as our visitors.

The Natatorium Memorial can be restored and utilized again. Everyone wins!

Kelly McMahon

96/11/13 Editorial Article in Honolulu Star-Bulletin

A Capitol View article by Richard Borreca, titled "Two bureaucrats who tell it like it is" in which Bruce Anderson, deputy director of the state Health Department, warns about plans to spend $12 million or more to restore the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium."Boils and ear infections were a problem in the old pool, and they will be a problem in any new salt-water pool because it is practically impossible to disinfect salt water," he is quoted.

96/12/06 Letter to the Honolulu Star Bulletin
Can we please decide on fate of Natatorium?

The recent safety and health concerns expressed by Deputy Health Director Bruce Anderson about rebuilding the Waikiki Natatorium as a sea-water pool are good reason for proponents to rethink their plans.

But Anderson's warning should not be an excuse for more years of indecision and waffling.

Faced with a similar decision a few years ago, the city of Vancouver, B.C., tore down its sea-water natatorium and constructed a modern fresh-water pool at popular Kits Beach.

The Vancouver pool is often filled to capacity during the few summer months when weather is warm enough for beach activities. The new publicly operated pool is not free but supports its operating costs through a small admission price.

It's true that the climate and ocean temperature in cold Vancouver are not similar to balmy Hawaii. But Vancouver also does not have 100,000 daily sun-seeking visitors to help support its new beachside pool. Some locals and visitors will often choose a fresh-water pool over the Pacific - and not every tourist has the opportunity to swim in a first-class hotel pool.

Whether a fresh-water or sea-water fate for the Natatorium, let's get on with it. The deplorable condition of the present structure dishonors the war veterans that the Natatorium is supposed to memorialize.

Roger Morton

97/02/25 Mayor Jeremy Harris has a plan (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

Harris outlines plans to spruce up Waikiki. A rebuilt Natatorium with aquatic shows is among the mayor's goals. Article By Russ Lynch, Star-Bulletin.

The Waikiki Natatorium should be rebuilt into a public swimming pool and handed over to nonprofit operators to run aquatic shows and other revenue-producing activities at night, says Mayor Jeremy Harris.

Harris promised tourism executives yesterday he will get the job done by mid-1998 but acknowledged he will need financing approval from the City Council.

Acknowledging Waikiki's prime role in tourism, Harris told the Waikiki/Oahu Visitors Association he will fight crime and clean up the area and he wants private industry to play a major role in maintaining the area when the improvements are complete.

97/02/26 Reaction to Harris' Plan by Star-Bulletin

The mayor's proposal to restore the Waikiki Natatorium - and complete the job by mid-1998 - deserves full support by the City Council and the community. The crumbling condition of the Natatorium - a memorial to Hawaii's war dead of World War I - is a disgrace and a blight on one of the most valuable public areas on Oahu. It has been closed as a safety hazard since 1979. Harris proposes to turn over the Natatorium to nonprofit operators - presumably the Friends - to run aquatic shows and other programs.

Critics have questioned the water quality in the pool, but the Friends insist that a flushing system in the restoration design will maintain the quality at an acceptable level.

97/05/30 News Story in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

City says $11.5 million will restore natatorium. Council has approved funds for the rennovation of the memorial. Article by Gordon Y.K. Pang, Star-Bulletin, in which State Deputy Health Director Bruce Anderson says he's worried about the pool's bacterial levels and water clarity. Even though the Council approved renovation money Wednesday, debate continues over whether improvements should be done.

Harris and Council members Duke Bainum and John Henry Felix say the natatorium has the potential to become a premier saltwater venue for international water sports.

Banker John D. Nielsen said he runs an annual water polo tournament that features 600 people from around the world. He'd like to hold the tournament at the natatorium in 1998.

A related article by Dean Sensui, Star-Bulletin, mentions that the nonprofit Friends of the Natatorium will have to come up with the projected $300,000 to $400,000 in annual operating costs.

Friends President Lin Pang, who's worked 11 years to get the natatorium back on line, said the group may have to charge admission to cover costs. Harris said a concession booth in front of the natatorium also would bring in revenue as would special events such as a water ballet.

Rick Bernstein, who's just started the Kaimana Beach Coalition, supports tearing down most of the facility.

He said the city project "represents the commercialization of Kapiolani Park" that would lead to more parking headaches for residents trying to get to the beach.

97/06/06 Submitted Editorial by Councilman John Henry Felix in the Star-Bulletin

Felix gives his sentimental views of "a place where I learned the rudiments of swimming -- the exhilaration of diving from the high tower and the pride of mastering the maneuvering of a surfboard in placid waters," and goes on to describe the Memorial as a symbol that "we erect as a community to remind us of the tremendous sacrifices we have made for peace, a peace without the threat of tyranny, that true peace which we, in our American way, preserve through democracy, our personal expression of freedom."

He praises "a Herculean effort of the Friends of the Natatorium and the actions of our officials who are elected to serve the desires of the heart and soul of a people," and states that "this memorial shall be resurrected to its original glory to speak eloquently to its noble purpose."

After he waxes long about freedom, democracy, and the dissecration of monuments he writes that "the Natatorium is special among shrines. In design, it was ahead of its time. It combines a war memorial with a recreational site, creating a unique interactivity between the past and the present, between the new generation and the old. As children and their parents, professional swimmers and tourists come to use the pool, the only one of its kind in the world, they will become educated about the history contained herein."

He does not mention anything about the commercialization of the site and the changes it will bring about for the citizens of Honolulu who visit the ajacent Kapiolani Park and Kaimana Beach.

97/06/11 Letter to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin from Rick Bernstein
Renovation of Natatorium is good deal for the Friends

The City Council has allocated $11.5 million in tax dollars to restore the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. Five years ago, this project was estimated to cost $15.5 million. Many people believe that the true cost will be in excess of $20 million. That represents a shortfall of between $4-8.5 million.

The Council has said that any additional money must come from the private sector and be raised by the Friends of the Natatorium. What assurance does the budget committee have that the Friends can raise that money? What if, after a year, the group fails and the project is half completed?

Out of necessity, the Friends will then return with a demand for more money and the Council will be forced to agree. Furthermore, the city is turning over all revenue from this commercial operation to the Friends.

Consider this scenario: The taxpayers pay off the renovation. The Friends follow Mayor Harris' stated goal and stage top-rated shows at sunset for tourists at $10 per customer. 2,400 seats x $10 =$24,000 per night x 30 nights =$720,000 per month x 12 months =$8.64 million.

The city gets none of this money and the Friends put all of it, as well as revenue from the gift shop, snack shop, pool use and other special activities, into its coffers.

As Friends of the Natatorium is a nonprofit, it pays no taxes. To say the least, there should be great concern for accountability of this much money in a quasi-government/private-sector business arrangement.

Is that smell coming from the Natatorium a dead fish or what?

Rick Bernstein

Kaimana Beach Coalition

97/06/23 Letter to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin from Annie Sung-Bernstein
Plans to 'fix' Natatorium won't improve landmark

The Honolulu City Council has budgeted $11.5 million for the restoration of the Natatorium. But the restoration, as proposed by the Friends of the Natatorium, has many inherent problems. These include:

Poor water quality and clarity, which can lead to health problems, drownings and lawsuits.

Inadequate parking and accessibility problems, especially for the local users of Kaimana Beach and nearby residents.

Overcrowding and overuse of the area by tourists as plans include a gift shop, a snack shop, a museum and sunset shows for visitors.

The city must do what is best for taxpaying citizens. Demolish the pool and bleachers, restore the arch, and create a new beach with toilets, changing rooms and showers.

Call Mayor Harris and your City Council member and let your voices be heard. Don't let the aggressive forces of tourism and development trample over the rights of citizens.

We deserve a beautiful, well-maintained, easily accessible beach and park where we can enjoy ourselves, relax, exercise and celebrate life.

Annie Sung Bernstein

97/07/15 Letter to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin from Joseph Lileikis

Salt-water pool is needed for swim-happy Hawaii

There have been years of government inaction on restoration of the War Memorial Natatorium. Thankfully, that has now ended.

I am a former University of Hawaii All-American swimmer and am presently the head coach of the 130-member Rainbow Aquatics Masters Swimming Program. I strongly support restoration of the Natatorium as a salt-water pool.

97/10/07 Letters Honolulu Star-Bulletin by J.D. Nielsen, Board Member Friends of the Natatorium

The Oct. 2 letters by John Zapotocky and Suzanne Teller against the full restoration of the Waikiki War

Memorial Natatorium do not reflect the sentiments of Hawaii's major veterans organizations nor the plans to restore and maintain the memorial.

Recently scores of veterans turned out at the City Council to support full restoration of the arch, the wall and especially the unique, historic salt-water pool.

97/10/10 Local News Honolulu Star-Bulletin by Richard Borreca

Opposition climbs amid new concerns. The public and Council are throwing cold water on the plan as doubts about safety, costs and operations emerge

Opposition to an $11.5 million plan to rebuild the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium is increasing among both local beach-goers and City Council leaders.

Mayor Jeremy Harris wants the 70-year-old saltwater pool rebuilt to serve as a local swimming facility during the day and a tourist spot at night.

97/07/15 News story Honolulu Star-Bulletin by Rod Ohira

Resurrecting the glory of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium Waikiki will come at the price of $11.5 million, in a project the city aims to begin early next year and finish within 14 months.

It's a controversial undertaking for a unique facility that will involve environmental studies, a high-tech water-circulation system, and the commitment for upkeep after restoration.

97/12/08Honolulu Lite Honolulu Star-Bulletin by Charles Memminger

Get the pool off the beach, brah!

I SN'T it kind of silly to have a concrete swimming pool sitting in the ocean at the most famous beach in the world?

This is something like building an indoor ice skating rink on the frozen surface of the world's most popular ice-skating pond. Or building an indoor manmade-snow skiing stadium on the snow-covered slopes of an Olympicski village.

That's the main reason I'm against restoring the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium to its original swimming pool splendor. The other reason is that it will cost too damn much during these tough economic times. But complaining about the dumb ways the government squanders our money while it also talks about raising taxes apparently is a waste of time.

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