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Lanai Adventure Center gets special-use permit OK

Project on old Koele resort golf course to include zip lines and challenge courses

The Lanai Planning Commission on Wednesday approved Lanai Resorts’ special-use permit and Project District Phase 2 application for an Adventure Center with zip lines and challenge courses on parts of the old Experience at Koele Golf Course.

Lanai Resorts LLC, doing business as Pulama Lana’i, is developing the Adventure Center on 30 acres on what were hole Nos. 7 and 8 and later renumbered to Nos. 17 and 18, said Karlynn Fukuda of project consultant Munekiyo Hiraga at a commission meeting Nov. 28. The purpose of the project is to repurpose the golf course, which closed in 2015, into an outdoor activities venue.

Synergo LLC will design and operate the Adventure Center. The Oregon-based company specializes in aerial adventure park, challenge course and zip line construction and design, according to the company’s website.

The Adventure Center will include a welcome center using the old clubhouse, a keiki course, tandem zip lines and a challenge course. Elements include equipment installations with names such as the spider web, the junkyard, the giant swing, the catwalk log and diversity trail, Fukuda said.

There also will be an adventure tower, which will be no more than 35 feet high and surrounded by 2 feet of water, she said. The height aligns with maximum height requirements under the old golf course project district requirements, she said.

Planning Department officials said the project cost is about $3 million.

Guests at the Koele Wellness Experience at the old Lodge at Koele, which company officials said in late 2018 is expected to open early this year, will be able to walk to the site, Lanai Resorts officials said.

“You do not have a wellness center anywhere else,” said Lynn McCrory of Pulama Lana’i at the November meeting. “You have spas, you have places to go, but you don’t have that. And part of that wellness center is the ability to use the Adventure Center. They are linked.”

There will be groups of up to 15 people who will go through various stations and different challenge course elements with a trained facilitator, said Fukuda. The Adventure Center is proposed to be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

Besides wellness center, Four Seasons Lana’i and Hotel Lanai guests, day-trippers, off-island Hawaii residents and Lanaians are anticipated users of the Adventure Center. At the November meeting, Erik Marter of Synergo said it was important to him to get residents and youths involved with the center and would work to keep the facility affordable to them.

“We . . . agreed to do it if we could also help grow the community that the Adventure Center is a part of,” he told the commission. “Working with students in your schools, working with your other nonprofits, working with some of your local churches and their youth groups, it’s very important to us as an organization.”

The decision to convert the old golf course is the result of “continuing changes in visitors’ preferences and expectations,” said Fukuda. They “have shown a decline in the golf industry in Hawaii.”

Pulama Lana’i has another course closer to the shoreline, the Manele Golf Course. It is adjacent to The Four Seasons Resort Lana’i. There also is the Cavendish Golf Course in Koele.

McCrory said that the golf course and resort built by David Murdock never made money over two decades. Murdock eventually sold the company to Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison in 2012. Pulama Lana’i manages and oversees Ellison’s operations on Lanai.

“And one of the premises of Mr. Ellison is simply you don’t do the same thing over again if it wasn’t succeeding,” she said. “So when he looked at Manele he sat there and said well, what else could I do with that?”

Ellison has turned the Four Seasons Resort Lana’i into the luxury resort with the highest room rates in Hawaii, is transforming Koele into a wellness center, and is converting the Experience golf course into the Adventure Center, McCrory said. These changes might help the company “break even.”

The approvals came after commissioners requested studies of noise impacts of the development and other possible locations for the center at the meeting in November.

In a report filed for Wednesday’s meeting, Munekiyo Hiraga said studies predicted that even with all Adventure Center elements operating simultaneously, noise levels still were below state requirements for residential areas of 60 decibels.

As for other possible locations, the consultants considered three alternative sites — Lanai Archery & Sporting Range, the Palawai Basin area and the Koele Stables area. The other sites presented safety and infrastructure issues and were not in proximity of the Koele Wellness Experience.

The commission approved the special use permit and Project District 2 application with 11 conditions recommended by the Planning Department and two amendments made by the commission.

The first amendment involved time extensions to the permits, which are valid until Nov. 30, 2023. The commission called for the planning director to forward requests for time extensions to the commission for review and approval and public hearing.

Other conditions called for construction to begin by Nov. 30 and to be completed within a year.

The commission added a 12th condition, calling for “unrestricted access” to the Koloiki Ridge Trail and the Kaiholena Trail from the welcome center to the original trailheads. Fukuda also mentioned in November that the Munroe Trail will be accessible to locals.

Planner Ann Cua said that all the project requires now is a final administrative approval for Project District Phase 3, which is related to the use of the project only.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.