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After years of disrepair and neglect, the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial will crumble into the sea no more. The city and state announced their plans to replace the 86-year-old complex with a new public beach (to be called Memorial Beach). The site’s famous archway will remain intact but be moved inland, according to a news release.
The debate on what to do with the decaying Natatorium has been going on for years, so it’s a welcomed relief to hear that some action will finally be taken. Since the structure’s closure in 1979, the Natatorium has received no regular maintenance whatsoever. It not only became an eyesore of the pristine Waikiki shoreline but a disgrace to the World War I veterans it was meant to honor.
To do nothing at all would have not been an option. And to build beach volleyball courts – as Gov. Neil Abercrombie had once mentioned – would have been a waste of taxpayers’ money. I’m glad the city and state were able to find a happy medium out of all this. Preserving at least a portion of this structure is better than nothing at all.
Plus, it’s more economically feasible. It will cost about $18 million, as opposed to $69 million should there be a complete restoration. It will be sad to see the saltwater-fed swimming pool go, though. During its early years, world-class athletes swam in the Natatorium pool, including the legendary Duke Kahanamoku and fellow Olympians Buster Crabbe.
However, there will no doubt be new memories made once the public beach is created. Memories that will open a new chapter to Hawaii’s history books, welcoming people from near and far to enjoy this significant part of paradise.