Repairs complete, Pearl Harbor reopens to public

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The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor reopened Sept. 1 after 15 months of ramp and dock repairs.
The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor reopened Sept. 1 after 15 months of ramp and dock repairs.
Tovin Lapan
Tovin Lapan

After $2 million in repairs and a handful of delays, the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor reopened over Labor Day weekend.

Thanks to damage to a dock and concrete ramp at the site, the Aloha State's second most visited attraction behind only Hawaii Volcanoes National Park had to suspend normal tour operations for 15 months. 

The National Park Service, along with the U.S. Navy and private contractors, completed the final phase of construction at the close of August, and the memorial officially reopened Sept. 1. 

"It is a great honor to share the stories of the men of the USS Arizona," Pearl Harbor National Memorial acting superintendent Steve Mietz said in a statement. "That is the cornerstone of our mission here, and restoration of public access to this iconic place is critical as we continue to tell their stories and honor their memory." 

The memorial draws more than 4,000 visitors daily, and during the repairs an alternative 30-minute boat tour of Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row was offered. 

Thousands of visitors were on hand for the reopening, some waiting more than two hours for the chance to board the 105-foot memorial and shrine where you can view the wreckage of the ship below in addition to a marble wall etched with the names of those who died in the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941

In April, as the one-year anniversary of the closure approached, Pleasant Holidays president and CEO Jack Richards said it was having a "negative impact" on visitation as the site was a bucket-list item for many U.S. travelers.

"There's a certain segment of the baby boomers that are getting up in age, and that's on their list of things to see," Richards said.

The memorial welcomed a record 1,947,495 visitors in 2017, according to NPS data. In 2018, even as Hawaii visitation grew, Pearl Harbor saw nearly 170,000 fewer people.  

Damage to the concrete ramp leading to the memorial was discovered in May 2018, and walk-on visitation was halted. Later, inspections found the dock's anchoring system to be flawed. Originally, the project was scheduled to finish by October 2018 before the completion date was moved back to May 2019. 

After the deadline was missed, the state's congressional delegation sent a letter to the NPS acting director expressing disappointment with the ongoing closure and requesting monthly updates on repairs.

The work proved complex, according to the NPS, and there were further delays as inspections were completed, plans were drafted and a contractor was secured. In March, the NPS announced the award of a $2.1 million contract and a new timetable. In the end, the concrete anchoring system was entirely replaced to avoid future issues. 

The USS Arizona Memorial first opened on May 30, 1962. The site sits above the sunken wreckage of the battleship. Of the 1,512 on board when Japanese aircraft attacked, 1,177 perished. The ship's hull is the final resting place of more than 900 of the crewmen who could not be recovered.  

Tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial program are available on a walk-in, same-day, first-come-first-served basis at the visitor center ticket desk or online. Admission to the memorial is free, but there is a $1 per-ticket fee for reservations (available 60 days in advance).

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