Repairs are still on hold at the Kona Village Resort, an 82-acre property on the Big Island of Hawaii that was forced to close after suffering extensive damage from the same tsunami that ravaged northeastern Japan nearly one year ago.
According to Patrick Fitzgerald, the resort’s president and CEO, work has been delayed due to ongoing insurance settlement negotiations complicated by the property’s age.
“It was built in the mid-'60s and had both infrastructure and construction that was done normal to that period,” Fitzgerald said. “Looking at things now, relative to the damage that was caused by the tsunami and the code issues that are in place today vs. what was there in the '60s, a substantial amount of work needs to be done, particularly on the infrastructure like water, sewer, electrical and gas.”
Fitzgerald estimated that the tsunami caused well over $20 million in damage to the existing property and that another $15 million to $20 million would likely be necessary to bring the resort’s dated infrastructure up to code.
“My plan was to have the resort open by the end of 2013,” he said. “Is that possible? Yes. If we started work soon we might be able to make the end of next year. It’s going to be hard, but we certainly want to open as soon as possible.”
The planning and design phase for the upgrades and repairs won’t begin until after the insurance deliberations are complete, and that could take another 60 days, according to Fitzgerald.
More than 20 of the resort’s iconic hale, or thatched-roof bungalow accommodations, and a number of the property’s common areas, bars, restaurants and its main lobby suffered significant damage from the March tsunami.
“There was at least one wave of seven to seven-and-a-half feet that hit Kona Village, but there were clearly also multiple waves that came in and out,” Fitzgerald said. “And there were buildings that were just picked up and thrown against trees.”
About 200 employees lost their jobs when the resort officially closed April 3 last year, but Fitzgerald said some have since been hired at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai next door and at neighboring properties like the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel several miles north.
Long loved by a host of regularly returning guests thanks to its old Hawaii charm, the Kona Village Resort will see more than just its infrastructure upgraded prior to reopening. The project list currently includes building larger pools, improving restaurant spaces, renovating all of the rooms and enhancing the spa and fitness facilities.
Other additions, such as in-room air conditioning, Internet access and televisions, and whether or not to maintain the resort’s all-inclusive model have been discussed but are yet to be decided.
“We don’t have any intent to change the ambience and the feel of the property,” Fitzgerald insisted. “What we hope to do is certainly enhance the property while we’re doing the work on the insurance.”