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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hilton lagoon revived

Photo galleryPhoto gallery: Blessing for the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon
Video: Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kahu Kordell Kekoa of Kamehameha Schools blesses the Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Lagoon at Hilton Hawaiian Village. The ceremony celebrated the lagoon's $15 million restoration project, which includes a high-tech water circulation system.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The once-murky man-made pond next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa got a blessing yesterday celebrating the $15 million restoration of what's officially known as the Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Lagoon.

Hotel officials said the renovation project will go the final step inviting the public back to swim in the saltwater lagoon late next month.

The body of water was built as part of Henry J. Kaiser's Hawaiian Village development in the early 1950s before the hotel became a Hilton in 1961.

The 5-acre pond is slightly smaller than the original, but with a sophisticated water circulation system featuring seven saltwater wells drilled from 195 to 250 feet below the surface of the ocean. The area surrounding the lagoon also was landscaped as part of the upgrade.

Jo-Ann Kahanamoku-Sterling, grand-niece of Duke Kahanamoku, was on hand for the Hawaiian blessing and maile lei untying.

"I think it's wonderful," she said, looking out over the clean, blue water in the upgraded lagoon. Asked what her famous great uncle might think, she replied, "He would be in awe."

Three surfing instructors from the Hilton paddled around the lagoon during the celebration.

Hilton officials said the wells draw in about 15,000 gallons of saltwater per minute, helping to turn over the water in the lagoon about five times a day. The lagoon's depth has gone from about 12 feet to approximately 5 feet, and more than 33,000 tons of sand were used to replenish the beach and bottom of the lagoon.

Over the years, the shoreside lagoon became neglected under the shared ownership of the state and the Hilton and became something of a jellyfish refuge.

Various proposals had been made to renovate the lagoon over the years, including a proposal in the late 1990s to transform it into an "aquatic adventure park" stocked with colorful fish teeming through artificial reefs. That plan included a proposal to tow visitors underwater in a ride that simulated diving without requiring visitors to don scuba gear.

The private recreation park idea drew some criticism as being too Disneyland-ish, and was eventually abandoned after costs escalated to more than $20 million.

The current project to restore the lagoon was required by the city as part of approvals for Hilton to build its Waikikian time-share tower nearby.

Besides Kahanamoku-Sterling, others attending yesterday's celebration included Gary Seibert, area vice president and managing director, Hilton Hawaii; Mark Wang, executive vice president, Hilton Grand Vacations Company, Hawaii-Asia; Noel G. Trainor, general manager, Hilton Hawaiian Village; Kahu Kordell Kekoa, Kamehameha Schools Kapalama; legendary paddler Joseph "Nappy" Napoleon; and Jim Fulton and Patrick Dugan of the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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