Volleyball players push to keep Keauhou courts

KEAUHOU — For those who’ve been playing here for years, the volleyball court at Keauhou Bay is about much more than volleyball.

“Look at the place,” said Ainsley Keawekane, who coaches the Hoopa Hawaii volleyball team. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to come down here and play? ”

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Keawekane has played volleyball here for 27 years — his son grew up playing volleyball here — but it’s also been a place for family picnics, birthdays and special events.

But a proposed management plan for the bay from Kamehameha Schools, which owns 54 acres at the bay, has some concerned about the court’s future.

The plan is aimed at reducing pressure on sensitive resources at the bay and moving traffic and commercial operations away from historic sites.

The recommendations, which include improving Old Kona Road and reorienting the Keauhou Canoe Club, don’t make reference to the future of the sand volleyball courts. Kamehameha Schools has previously told West Hawaii Today that the courts would be part of a larger discussion about reorienting the area and that “no decisions have been made.”

A petition addressed to Kamehameha Schools with more than 140 supporters calls on them to either let the Keauhou Volleyball Association keep the courts and work with them to improve them or relocate and re-establish them to a similar place at or near the bay.

On Saturday, Keawekane was at the court watching Hoopa Hawaii practice in advance of a big indoor tournament scheduled the following day.

In addition to learning the ins and outs of the sport, he said, the sport also gives his athletes an avenue to learn how to socialize and get along in a community.

“When I teach, I use volleyball just as a tool for life lessons,” he said. “Like sisters like they are, you get your sibling rivalries, but you also have that, ‘Hey, we’ve got to be grownups here,’ and you’ve got to love each other.”

Keawekane said he plans to attend an upcoming meeting between the Keauhou Volleyball Association and Kamehameha Schools, and he said on Saturday it would be a big loss if the court isn’t a part of the future plan.

“We have one court in town,” he said, referencing the one at Coconut Grove. “But that’s heavily used by the community, besides just us. We have one day a week there.”

Anastasia Tuifua, a high school junior who has played volleyball since sixth grade, also said the bay is a special place for those who have built memories coming here.

“I just love how much it feels like a home almost,” she said. “There’s so much memories of family events down here and playing volleyball and going beach. I think that’s what I love the most, is the memories.”

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And she said she would strongly encourage keeping the court here.

“I feel like it’s a big part of the beach itself,” she said. “It would not be the same without the beach volleyball court.”

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