‘Adventure Center’ proposed for Lanai

Ziplines, giant swing, tightropes to replace two holes at Koele Golf Course

An activity center with ziplines, a giant swing, tightropes and other challenges is being proposed for a portion of the former Experience at Koele Golf Course on Lanai.

Lanai Resorts LLC, doing business as Pulama Lana’i, is seeking a county special use permit for the activity in the area of what were the eighth and ninth holes on the old golf course. The course is next to the existing Koele resort, which has been closed since January 2015 for renovations and housing for construction workers.

Now known as the Ko’ele Wellness Experience, the resort is expected to reopen in early 2019, Pulama Lana’i said in an email Thursday.

Pulama Lana’i manages and oversees landowner Larry Ellison’s operations on the island. Ellison, a technology billionaire, purchased 98 percent of Lanai in 2012.

The Lanai Planning Commission will take up the permit application for the Adventure Center at a public hearing at 5 p.m. Nov. 28 at the Lanai Senior Center in Lanai City.

Pulama aims to construct an activity center designed and operated by Synergo LLC. It is an Oregon-based company that specializes in aerial adventure park, challenge course and zipline construction and design, according to the company’s website.

The Adventure Center will include a welcome center, an adventure tower, a keiki course, tandem ziplines and a challenge course.

Pulama Lana’i said it could not discuss project costs, but explained the reason behind the project.

“Our goal is to re-imagine Koele as a best-in-class wellness destination, the Ko’ele Wellness Experience, unlike any other in Hawaii or the world. The proposed adventure course will be a component of this. Challenge courses like the one we propose are often a feature of customized wellness programs,” the company said.

Koele is undergoing a $75 million upgrade and “refresh,” which involves reducing the number of rooms from 102 to 94 by converting some into meeting rooms and enlarging other rooms, according to documents previously filed with the county. There will be a spa treatment hale; yoga and fitness pavilions; a new pool with 25-yard lap lanes and a water exercise area; and private gardens.

The company said on Thursday that the old golf course will be turned into a park for residents and visitors.

In the public hearing notice initially published on Wednesday in The Maui News, the company said that “continuing changes in visitor preferences and expectations have shown a decline in the golf industry in Hawaii.”

Pulama Lana’i has another course closer to the shoreline, Manele Golf Course. It is adjacent to The Four Seasons Resort Lana’i, located at Manele Bay.

“Instead, there has been an increased interest in ecotourism and other similar activities that involve outdoor recreation. In order to maintain its draw as a world-class visitor destination, the inclusion of these types of activities is necessary,” the published notice said. “The proposed action supports the applicant’s vision of providing additional recreational activities for island guests and the community.”

The Experience at Koele Golf Course was originally constructed in the early 1990s. While maintenance improvements have been made over the years to maintain the golf course’s competitiveness, no significant renovations have been done to the golf course since it was originally built, the public notice adds.

The course is located within the Koele project district. To the west is the old Koele resort, along with Lanai City residential developments to the south.

Surrounding lands to the north, east and west are vacant and undeveloped. Those lands were mainly used for ranching and pineapple cultivation, the notice said.

There was at least one mixed review about the proposal.

Neal Rabaca, owner of Rabaca’s Limousine Service, said from a business standpoint, the new attraction would give tourists and residents alike more activities on the island. But, as a resident, he has concerns on how it will affect island life.

“The only thing that concerns me is closing off areas where we used to be able to go freely,” Rabaca said.

Some of the more detailed elements at the challenge course include elements called Diversity Trail, Catwalk, Nitro Crossing, Leap of Faith, Whale Watch, Giant Swing, High V, Spider’s Web, TP Pentagon, Junkyard, Grape Vine and Trailblazer.

The Junkyard may involve a swinging rock-climbing wall, a rope climb, a tire to get through and other obstacles, according to information that Synergo provided on a project in Oregon. And the Whale Watch is a large teeter-tottering platform.

Synergo has been a member of the Association for Challenge Course Technology for a number of years and became an accredited Professional Vendor Member in 2002, according its website.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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