DISNEY BREAKS GROUND
Dream theme touted
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Robbie Dingeman
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts broke ground yesterday on a family-oriented resort expected to open in Ko Olina on O'ahu's Leeward Coast in 2011 and announced that the company has donated $100,000 to four public schools in the area.
The $800 million resort is planned to include 350 hotel rooms and 480 timeshare units.
Plans call for an expansive pool and water play area, a spa, a convention center, a children's club and two restaurants, one oceanfront.
Although there will be no theme park, the resort has some distinctly Disney amenities, including a waterway with family friendly tubes and body slides woven through a "volcanic crater," and a saltwater snorkel lagoon.
The theme-park experts marked the ceremonial beginning today with a traditional Hawaiian blessing ceremony on its 21-acre oceanfront property.
"This Disney destination resort will provide a unique way for families to experience Hawai'i," said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "By blending Disney's high standard of guest service and creative storytelling, we'll create a place where all family members can discover the wonder of these special islands."
Rasulo said that Disney chose to build a resort on O'ahu because of the international popularity of Hawai'i as a family vacation destination and believes the project will succeed despite the current slump in tourism. Hawai'i is among the top vacation choices of Disney Vacation Club members following Disney's theme park destinations, he said.
The company also announced it is donating $100,000 to four West O'ahu high schools to support academic programs.
The programs that will receive $25,000 each are: Campbell High School's engineering and robotics program, Kapolei High School's Science and Technology Academy, Nanakuli High School's theater program and Searider Productions at Wai'anae High School.
Nanakuli principal Darin Pilialoha said the Disney philosophy of reaching for your dreams helps inspire students. He said the money will be a boost to the performing arts program that is endangered by state Department of Education's recent budget cuts.
Pilialoha said Disney has a record of going out to schools in their communities and having students intern on the properties. "I see that as an awesome opportunity for our students," he said.
State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who has represented the area for a decade and grew up nearby, also attended the blessing.
Hanabusa said Disney could have chosen any state or any part of the state to build and still chose the Wai'anae Coast. The community investment will bring jobs and tax revenue, she said. But will bring a special message to the children growing up nearby.
"They just need to be able to dream that dream," Hanabusa said. "They can be and do whatever they want to."
Kumu hula Kaleo Trinidad's halau — Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka La — performed at the blessing and the ceremony after included performances by Halau Hula Olana under kumu hula Olani Ai; and Kamehameha Schools Children's Choir. Chef Sam Choy catered the food and personally watched over the lunch, which included honey-macadamia nut shrimp with wasabi fried rice and haupia-filled profiteroles.
Kapolei Neighborhood Board chairwoman Maeda Timson said Disney is helping to fulfill the theme of Kapolei "to live work and play in Kapolei."
Before the thousand jobs created to run the resort begin, the construction industry already is feeling the boost from the expansive project at a time when other companies are cutting back.
Hawaiian Dredging Co. president William Wilson said his company began work on pre-construction activities in January when it was selected as the lead contractor. Over time and including subcontractors, he expects the project will employ "several thousand people."
With other private construction projects slow to develop and hitting financial hurdles, Wilson described this project as "critically important" to the industry.
Reach Robbie Dingeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.