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Ground broken for Ka‘u District Gym & Shelter


An estimated 150 people – including a few dozen Ka‘u High students – participated in the ground blessing for the Ka‘u District Gym & Shelter Wednesday morning on the school campus.

The 43,000 square foot gymnasium and multi-purpose facility will be situated upon approximately five acres of the Ka‘u High and Pahala Elementary School campus.

It is a state and county joint-funded effort managed by the county and is the result of collaborative planning design effort among the community, the Department of Education, Ka‘u High and Pahala Elementary Administration and staff, Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Department of Public Works.

Rep. Bob Herkes said the seven-year effort was made possible due to Mayor Billy Kenoi’s willingness for county to take over the project.

“This project is a result of a community coming together and encouraging the government to make it happen,” Kenoi said. “There is no higher priority than creating a puuhonua, a safe haven for our children. Congratulations to this beautiful community.”

The gymnasium provides for three NCAA regulation basketball courts (or NCAA regulation volleyball courts) with retractable athletic curtains between each court to allow for simultaneous multisport use with minimal disruptions.

Accessory spaces include a certified kitchen with concession counters; ticket windows; meeting room; a community recreation room; interior and exterior public restrooms; two sets of locker/shower rooms; DOE Athletic Trainer’s office, conference room and training room; Parks and Recreation staff office; an American Red Cross emergency supplies room; and miscellaneous storage and support rooms.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said, “This is going to be the symbol of the new Ka‘u.”

Construction for the $17 million Ka‘u District Gym & Shelter is scheduled to begin in 30 days.

The gymnasium and multipurpose facility are both designed to meet the Enhanced Hurricane Protection Area classification for hurricane shelters; its performance objective is to remain operational during and after a 500 to 100-year hurricane event, or a Category 3 Hurricane with 155 mph peak gusts.

The two structures will be capable of serving 1,928 individuals as a shelter though it is anticipated that more could be accommodated when necessary.

When the vog condition in the area reaches a level of concern, the facilities will serve as a designated vog shelter featuring a specialized air filtration system that can accommodate 325 persons for extended periods. More people may be accommodated if necessary for shorter duration stays.

Uncle Bobby Gomes, a well-respected member of the community was called upon by Sharon Beck, Ka‘u High and Pahala Elementary School principal to bless the area.

With tears in his eyes, he said, “For the people of this community, we can be proud of ourselves because when we unite … look at what we accomplish.”

(Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office)

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