Work could begin soon on island gymnasiums

South Maui will get new facility; Wailuku’s War Memorial will get an overdue makeover

The nearly 60-year-old War Memorial Gym has not seen a major renovation in over two decades. The gym hosts many high-profile sporting events as well as fairs, exhibits and other events. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Constructing South Maui’s first gymnasium by 2020 and an expansive renovation of the nearly 60-year-old War Memorial Gym are moving forward this year, county parks Director Ka’ala Buenconsejo said Wednesday.

Bidding on the South Maui Community Park Recreation Center closes today and is estimated to cost $20 million, Buenconsejo said. He said that the department would request the funding through a budget amendment to the County Council after this year’s budget session ends in May.

In the “best-case scenario,” construction would begin in late 2018 or early 2019, Buenconsejo said. He said construction would take about a year.

“I think it’s well overdue,” he said. “This would be the only gym in South Maui, and besides that its a community gym.

“Maui hasn’t had a gym built in the county in over 20 years.”

War Memorial Gym’s louvers, or shutter windows, will be replaced by the end of the year. The louvers are rusted and cannot be closed, causing flooding during storms and giving birds entry. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

The 33,000-square-foot facility will allow seating for just under 2,000 people, with two main courts and four cross courts. It also boasts two meeting rooms, a kitchen, a designated ticket booth that may be converted to another meeting room, two small locker room facilities with about three showers each and bathroom facilities on both ends of the gym.

The department also would add about 200 parking stalls to the 44-acre community park complex.

Major renovations to War Memorial Gym are set to begin this year, starting with the replacement of all the louvers, or shutter windows, by the end of the year, Buenconsejo said. He said future repairs include remodeling the locker rooms, painting the inner walls of the gym, resurfacing the court, improving ventilation and possibly installing air conditioning.

Replacing the louvers is the biggest concern for the county, though, because rain causes major flooding inside the gym and will damage any repairs.

“It’s not rusted shut, it’s rusted open,” he said of the louvers. “If it’s a windy, rainy day, the rain leaks onto the floor and that’s why we’re getting warping of our floor surface. It hasn’t been totally resurfaced in over two decades, but if we can’t contain the outside elements, we don’t want to put any more money in.”

The gym also serves as an evacuation shelter during storms, providing a place for visitors unable to fly home. Leaking from the windows, as well as some from the roof and doorways, has caused the county concern for the shelter.

Buenconsejo said that the department is looking for more weather-resistant and rust-proof windows that would block outside weather and “our feathered friends.” Birds can regularly be seen swooping over the basketball court or heard chirping inside the gym.

“We don’t just house our community, we do have our feathered friends who live inside,” he said.

The county also is looking at repairing the Kula and Haliimaile gyms, and has begun structural design work to replace the roof of the Paia Gym, Buenconsejo said. He said that an engineer is looking at the design and hopes to have work completed this year.The county purchased Kula Gym for $1.2 million from the Maui Federal Credit Union last year. Renovations to Wailuku Gym were completed last year.

Buenconsejo said that the department is committed to maintaining the gyms the county owns. He said council members are in “total support” of renovating War Memorial Gym, which is the county’s marquee venue for sporting events, job fairs, the horticulture exhibit at the Maui Fair, the Senior Fair and others events.

“It’s the gem of Central Maui,” he said. “We have big events here so we need to put money back into it so we can showcase it again.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at