KAILUA-KONA — Repairs to the Kona Community Aquatic Center, which has been shutdown for more than five months, are expected to be complete by mid-October.
Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation officials this week for the first time since the pool closed March 1 when its sand filter system failed provided a more concrete date of when work on North Kona’s lone public swimming facility is expected to wrap up.
“We are on track to complete all the repairs by the second week of October it looks like right now,” P&R Deputy Director Maurice Messina said.
That puts the possible opening right around the time of the Ironman World Championship that takes place Oct. 12. Thousands of athletes with entourage in tow turn out for the triathlon, using the Olympic-sized pool at the aquatics center to train in the days leading up to the grueling 140.6-mile swim-bike-run event.
“Right now, we’re just more concerned about getting this pool back open to the public and as soon as we can get it open we will get it open,” Messina stated when asked if the department was concerned about reopening in time for the world-renowned triathlon.
West Hawaii Today reached out to the department after receiving inquiries from concerned members of the public that the pool repair completion date had been pushed back by months, possibly not reopening until next spring. Messina said they’d also received emails and calls.
“Unfortunately there are rumors right now going around that the KCAC pool has been pushed back until the end of next spring to reopen and we would just ask the public to please call us to dispel any rumors or to get a true accounting on where we stand on any of our projects,” he said.
Honolulu-based Aquatic Solutions Hawaii LLC in May was awarded a $243,550 contract to replace the sand filtration system and conduct other repairs to the facility, Messina said. The bid came in substantially lower than officials estimated the project would cost at $400,000.
This week, the filters were already on a boat and being shipped across the Pacific to Hawaii Island.
“The manufacturing of the filters was completed one week quicker than expected,” Messina said Thursday, cautioning that early shipment likely won’t change the project’s overall timeline.
While the filters are on their way, the department is taking advantage of the downtime by having county workers make in-house repairs. In May, Messina said staff would be working on the hot-water heater, tiling, and some other repairs.
On Thursday, the county announced that effort has expanded, but not the cost because the work is being done “in-house.”
“We’re going to be doing a lot of work on the kiddie pool,” he said.
That includes replastering and tiling the pool; recoating the pool water feature; repairing the spalling pool coping and stones; and replacing the section of the lifting and cracking concrete deck near the kiddie pool.
In addition, county crews will replace all perimeter gutter systems and the entire aquatics center facility will get a fresh coat of paint.
“We just thought that since we’re having the pool closed for this extended period of time while the parts are being fabricated, we might as well bring everything else up to speed too at the same time so that there is no down time after this,” said P&R Director Roxcie Waltjen.
During the closure, the county has increased hours and staffing at Konawaena Pool, located about 12 miles away in South Kona. August hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a closure from noon to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a closure from noon to 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The pool, which was closed Friday for Statehood Day, will be closed Aug. 26 for maintenance.
“We just had a meeting a little while ago and they are trying to reorganize the schedule again because of the school session to see if we can increase the hours a little bit more,” Waltjen said.
First opened in 1994, the Kona Community Aquatic Center, located off Kuakini Highway, closed after the facility’s sand filters stopped operating. The filters are needed to keep the water clean in both the adult Olympic-size and smaller keiki pools.
At the time, the closure was estimated to last about six to seven months, or through at least September or October.
Prior to the shutdown, the county said the pool was its most used aquatic facility on the island. Between July 2018 and February, an estimated 118,000 people used the facility.
The Kona Dolphin Swim Club was among those that used the pool. Since it’s shuttering in March, the youth swim club has been moving from the ocean at Kailua Pier to Konawaena Pool to the pool at Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Waimea, said head coach Joyce Follis.
“All of the other teams and pools have really been trying to help and when we’ve asked for help, they’ve really coming through,” she said. “The community here is great with the teams.”
The club has also been unable to host meets at their “home pool,” instead having to go to Hilo. The trek should get a little shorter with the upcoming season change to short-course allowing meets to take place in Waimea, Follis said.
“The kids are still doing really well regardless,” she said, noting that one of the club’s members recently qualified for a national meet and several took titles at states. “They’re just resilient.”
But, there’s just no place like home.
“We’re so excited to get back to our pool and be with all of our lifeguards and staff again because they are such a big strong part for the kids. They really are supportive. That’s one thing we didn’t realize that we would miss as much as we do,” Follis said, noting that the lifeguards would cheer them on during practice and meets. “It’s those small things besides just having a pool that we really miss.”