Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city will move forward with plans to demolish the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium’s pool, creating a public beach while preserving the structure’s arched entrance.
“The future of the Natatorium has been discussed and debated for years, and it’s time to get the job done,” Caldwell said in a statement. “The current structure is an eyesore and a safety hazard and does not honor our veterans as intended. Preserving the arches and creating a new beach is a respectful and more economical way to resolve this situation.”
The Honolulu mayor said demolishing the swimming pool and its deck while preserving the Natatorium’s arches would cost around $18.4 million. According to city officials, completely restoring the pool would cost an estimated $69 million.
“This plan is the practical way to honor the memorial’s purpose and provide the celebration of joy and life that the memorial was originally intended to provide for all the people of Hawaii,” Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a statement. “We’re going to show respect, and we’re going to show good sense. We’ll do everything we can to coordinate, collaborate and cooperate with the city and county.”
Opened in 1927 on the birthday of surfing legend and Olympic gold medal swimmer Duke Kahanamoku, the Natatorium was dedicated to Hawaii soldiers who served and died during World War I. Currently listed on both the national and state registers of historic places, the memorial has been closed to the public since 1979 due to health and safety concerns.