By Wendy Osher
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa proposed the allocation of funds for the design of a Central Maui Sports Arena and Civic Center in Wailuku, and a Central Maui Aquatics Center in Kahului.
“These are huge projects which will improve our infrastructure, enhance our quality of life and put many of our people back to work,” said Mayor Arakawa.
Funding for the design projects were included in the Mayor’s 2013 budget proposal submitted to the Maui County Council last week. The projects are part of the $8.8 million in park facility improvements proposed under the mayor’s plan.
The War Memorial Gymnasium was built in the 1950’s in honor of our Maui residents who gave their lives during military service. Now, more thand a half a century later, Mayor Arakawa said, the facility faces more repairs more often as the building ages.
“The gymnasium has served this community well but we need a proper facility that will fit our growing needs,” said Mayor Arakawa of the proposed civic center.
Mayor Arakwa noted the timeliness of the suggestion, pointing to the University of Hawaii Wahine Volleyball game played at the gym last week that sold out all tickets for the 2400-seat gym weeks before the team’s arrival.
“More people want to come to these events and we need to have the facilities that can not only attract the crowds, but also handle the crowds,” said Mayor Arakawa.
Under the Mayor’s plan, $1.5 million is allocated for the design of the Central Maui Sports Arena/Civic Center.
“You can spend millions of dollars trying to do repairs… or because the entire complex is so old, and is requiring so much money in repair and maintenance, we should consider creating a new civic center,” said Mayor Arakawa.
The aging facility is in need of roof repairs, changing louvers to prevent dust and salt from infiltrating into the gym, and fixes to locker rooms to make them functional.
Opting for a civic center would not only allow for sporting events, but it would also include some meeting rooms adjacent to it, and a few exhibit halls, creating a meeting place for the community.
“I want to be very clear the civic center is not a convention center –a convention center is geared more towards the tourist industry, and its where a lot of people come to a two or three day meeting and then they leave the island. The civic center that we’re trying to build will be something that will be utilized year-round, and it’s more geared toward the local community,” said Mayor Arakwa.
“So we’re not trying to compete with the hotels and their ballrooms–we’re trying to be able to provide meeting rooms and display areas for people within our community,” said Mayor Arakwa.
The second parks project is for another million dollars to plan and design a Central Maui Aquatics Center.
The center is planned for location on land near the Kahului Post Office on the grounds of the old Swap Meet.
“Like the gymnasium,” Mayor Arakawa said, ”the Coach Sakamoto pool has also served us well for decades,” but he noted that the pool has been closed for mroe than a year and is in need of $3 million in repairs.
“In five years we will probably need to make another several million dollars in repairs and on, and on and on,” said Mayor Arakawa.
“We can either keep paying for repairs or we can take the area where Kahului Pool and the Salvation Army is located and we can build a state of the art, Olympic sized swimming pool and water park which will serve this community for another 50 years,” said Arakawa in his address.
The demand for the pool from the swimming community is significant according to Mayor Arakawa. “We’re having a huge problem with being able to provide enough pool space for all of the people that want to use it currently,” he said.
In addition to the Sakamoto Pool, the County also had three swimming pools up in ‘Iao Valley that have been closed for years.
“Are we going to continue maintaining a substandard circumstance, or do we want to create a new swimming complex with some of the ammenities that we have in some of the other areas,” said Mayor Arakawa, who alluded to shallow wading pools and water features for kids at the Kihei Aquatic Center, and the heated pool in Pukalani that seniors use for excercise.
“Our goal is to try and see if the Council will agree that the time has come to retire a grand old tradition of the swimming pool, and create a brand new complex that will be there for servicing the community for the next 25-50 years with adequate capacity, and the ammenities that we want to be able to have at a swimming pool,” said Mayor Arakawa.
In his address before the council, Mayor Arakawa said, “I know that some of you hear the words “sports arena” and “convention center” and “aquatics center” and think that this isn’t the right time for those types of projects. You’re thinking the economy hasn’t recovered fully and that we’re being irresponsible and maybe even a little radical. Sometimes that’s what being bold means. You can’t invest in your future if you hide your money under a rock,” he said.
“So let’s be bold and invest in our community and forge our own destiny,” said Mayor Arakawa.