By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Renovations at Volcano House hit a speed bump almost as soon as they got started.
However, the historic hotel remains on target for an early summer 2013 opening, or even earlier, the property’s manager says.
A combination restaurant, lodging and gift shop above Kilauea Caldera at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the building is the only hotel in the country that sits atop an active volcano. Hawaii Volcanoes Lodge Co. LLC assumed operations at the site in August after an almost three-year search for a new concessioner that left the facility closed by the National Park Service, which oversees the property.
George Mangino, general manager of Volcano House, said Wednesday that work at the site to renovate the hotel’s rooms, restaurant, lanai, and other parts of the facility has fallen behind due to paperwork issues.
“We’ve actually encountered some delays waiting on approvals from the park service for some work,” Mangino said. “Basically, we’re about two months behind schedule.”
But, he said, that ultimately shouldn’t have an effect on when the business reopens to the public, because the schedule included a little wiggle room to account for such delays.
“For that (reopening) timeline, we’re still on time,” he said.
Because of the building’s historic designation, all work being done there must first meet approval by the state Historical Preservation Division, said Walt Poole, concessions manager for the national park.
“We have verbally agreed to everything,” he explained, “but they (the Historical Preservation Division) still have to get all the construction drawings and approve them. We’re still waiting for them to respond. They have 30 days to respond, so they have until Nov. 9. If we don’t hear from them, there’s things we can do, but we want to work with them, because it’s a historical building.”
Revisions to the park service’s original plans for the facility have been relatively minor, Poole added.
For instance, he said, the state has requested that the building’s floor be made of polished concrete, in keeping with its original condition when the building was constructed in 1941.
Also, one of the building’s former gift shops has been changed to a “talk story” area, similar to the way it was set up originally. The purpose, Poole said, is for visitors to have “chairs and places where people can gather to look out over the volcano and talk.”
Another gift shop has been built in the old shop’s place, and is now in operation for visitors. “Grab ’n’ Go” food, drink and some retail items are available now, and more will be on offer as other renovations projects are completed. The facility is open from 7:45 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Additionally, all 10 A-frame cabins at Namakanipaio Campground are now available to the public. Reservations can be made by calling (808) 756-9625. Cabins start at $55 per night.
When renovation work is complete, the state of Hawaii’s oldest hotel will also offer 34 guest rooms, a dining room, snack bar, and lounge.
Email Colin M. Stewart at email@example.com.