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Possible Ferris Wheel at Ala Wai Harbor Leaves Many Unhappy

The state will soon be considering partnerships with corporations hoping to build soon

By: Tyne Phillips

10 December 2018

An international company has some unusual ideas for redevelopment of the Ala Wai Harbor: a Ferris wheel and motion theater.


The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) is seeking private business partners to help reconstruct the Ala Wai Harbor. While the division has not yet put out an official request for proposals, one company has already come forward.


Dynamic Attractions, a Canadian company that is currently designing the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Hawaii Island, wants to build a Ferris wheel and a motion theater on the old fueling dock at the end of the Ala Wai Harbor. The idea is reportedly modeled after Seattle’s Pier 57 which opened in 2012.


Newly elected state Sen. Sharon Moriwaki told Hawaii News Now that Dynamic Attractions plans to have a curfew of 10 p.m. by which all lights must be out.


The public has mixed feelings about this proposed plan. In fact, in a recent poll, where the Honolulu Star-Advertiser asked citizens for their opinion of the idea, about 83% of the 795 people who voted said “no.”


Eric Maravilla, who lives in Discovery Bay Condominium near the 699-capacity boat harbor, uses the harbor as part of his normal running route. He thinks a huge Ferris wheel could be an eyesore.


“I think it’s very unnecessary, to be honest,” Maravilla said. “It just kills the beauty of the island.”

History of the Ala Wai Harbor 


The state-owned Ala Wai Harbor, the largest small boat harbor in Hawaii, has faced ongoing issues with deterioration. Pollution, rust, and erosion have been slowly spreading like a disease across the harbor.


One boat owner complained about the piles of accumulated trash floating around his own boat and the docks in general. He says he has to navigate around huge pieces of plastic when he takes out his boat so that the bottom of his boat doesn’t get torn up.


Walker says every boat owner pays a hefty amount to lease a slip, yet the harbor looks and smells like a garbage dump.

Who is Dynamic Attractions? 


Dynamic Attractions builds amusement park thrill rides and has operated in Canada since its founding in 1926 as Vancouver Art Metal. The company has sister companies: Dynamic Entertainment, Dynamic Structures, and Dynamic Optics.


Dynamic Structures designed and built the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on the Big Island. The astronomically-invested company is also currently designing the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, which is slated to be built on Hawaii Island. It’s currently one of the most divisive and controversial issues in Hawaii as Mauna Kea is considered sacred ground to the Native Hawaiians.

More Proposals 


DLNR officials told Hoa Oahu that DOBOR will not be taking any action pertaining to the idea now, and that they’re open to other suggestions.


“The Ferris wheel company, and any other interested company with their own ideas, is welcome to bid when the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor project is offered,” said DLNR officials.


The state is expecting to release the official Request for Proposals sometime in the beginning of next year.

Permeating Filth and Congested Roads


Boat owner Steven Walker is more concerned that the harbor would be a circus with the crowds of people and the already unmaintained harbors.


“It’s just going to make a lot more traffic and a lot more wear and tear on the roads, a lot more dust flying around, a lot more just general trash build up,” Walker said. “There would be a problem with parking.”


Trash in Ala Wai Harbor.

The stench and build up of pollution that overflows the harbor’s corners and the layer of shiny oil that blankets the surface of the water – due to a lack of maintenance – has been a concern to many locals for years.


Dynamic Attractions allegedly proposed to have shuttles to transport people in and out of the harbor as a way to alleviate the traffic and parking issues.


One tourist from Virginia said boat owners and locals should accept the overcrowdedness the Ferris wheel would bring and instead focus on the benefit to future generations.


“It would be a good idea for the kids,” Kevin Outsey, 62, said. “If they got a boat, nine times out of 10, they can probably afford to dock it somewhere else.”

However, David Aquino, 31, a local who surfs in Waikiki and Ala Moana, says the foreign company might not appeal to the community.


“It’s always tough when a company from outside of Hawaii comes in and builds an entertainment attraction,” Aquino said. “Unless they’ve done like years of research, and downhill meetings, and community meetings, and just really getting to know the community that they’re putting that attraction in, I think there is so much space for it to go wrong and not be accepted by the community.”


In such an isolated location, he says, safety could be an issue, but the crowds the Ferris wheel would attract might actually decrease crime in the area.

“Safety is definitely an issue you have to think about,” Aquino said. “I’m assuming, like, it would bring more people. That might help a little, just if there’s more foot traffic then it tends to be a little more safer. But I don’t how safe it would be for the residents in the harbor.”


Multiple owners currently use the old fueling dock as a space to store their boats. The main resident of that dock is Holokai Catamaran, a Waikiki-based boating company that mainly services tourists.


It is unclear what would happen to the people whose boats currently occupy the fueling dock.


Hoa Oahu reached out to Holokai Catamaran, but the company declined to comment.


Mike Phillips, a resident of the harbor, says he wouldn’t mind the new attraction in his backyard.


“I would be for it,” Phillips said. “I like Ferris wheels.”


Hilton hotel employee Danny Thieu says the ride could actually help bring in more sales.


“I think it will, like, probably, definitely make more profit ‘cause people would want to see the Ferris wheel,” Thieu said.


David Aquino, local surfer.


Old fueling dock

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