New wrinkle in natatorium volleyball plans

Published On: Oct 16 2012 07:39:00 AM HST

The Governor is floating the idea of a volleyball venue that he hopes will save an aging war memorial.

HONOLULU -

Beach volleyball may be the fastest growing sport in the world and the city and state officials are weighing its place in Waikiki.

The University of Hawaii made history this spring, adding a women's beach volleyball team to its program.

 Around the same time Hawaii's governor was looking at how to mine the potential of the sport to save an iconic Waikiki structure-- fill in the natatorium pool for a sand volleyball stadium.               

"I think sand volley ball is a great idea if we can do it, so let’s see if we can do it," said Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

 But state land director William Aila told KITV that so far research has found the state owns the pool and land under the memorial arch-- but not the parking lot.

"The land with the parking lot mauka of the facade face belongs to the Kapiolani Park trust. That, of course, is going to play into our ultimate solution because it limits what we potentially can do," said Aila.

City council members sit as trustees of the trust, which means the state might have to convince them the idea of transforming the natatorium into sports venue is a good one.

Aila plans to meet with the city one more time before he lays out what’s possible on the governor's plate.

"We are finishing our due diligence so we can present a series of solutions he can decide to take," said Aila.

In the meantime, if volleyball isn’t in the natatorium's future, could a nearby city facility have volleyball in its future?

Last year, when UH was looking for a place for its games and practice courts,  the city offered an under utilized venue, the home of the old Kodak Hula show.

 "We saw this as an opportunity for us to create a venue for volleyball to occur,” said deputy director of Enterprise Services Randy Leong.

 The area is part of the Waikiki Shell facility.

The underutilized 2200 seat venue sits empty with only about a half a dozen bookings or more a year.

 "If there are interested parties out there to partner with the city to fund volley ball on the  Kodak hula show area then, great we will listen to them,” Leong said.

The university has already begun construction the new Ching Athletics Center at the Manoa campus which includes an 800 seat venue with volleyball practice courts.

But if the sport grows like some predict, Leong would like to believe the volleyball idea at the park is still very much in play.

At the time the city and UH were talking it was estimated it could take from $300,000  to $500,000 to convert the Hula show venue to accommodate volleyball.

It was something that neither side could afford.

But if national or international tournaments are in Hawaii's future, it is likely a big name sponsor would  have to be a part of it.

Meanwhile, on the other end of Waikiki an exhibition  beach volleyball game between Olympic athletes from the U.S. and China gets underway next weekend at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

The game is to be televised at a later date.  

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