|Volcano House, Kilauea, Hawaii, 1902|
A NEW DAY FOR VOLCANO HOUSE
By Colin M. Stewart, Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald
Aug. 9, 2012: A new concessioner is set take the reins Monday at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s Volcano House.
Pending Congressional approval, Hawaii Volcanoes Lodge Co. LLC will assume operation of the historic hotel and restaurant overlooking Kilauea Caldera. Once the company has taken possession, it will begin an estimated year-long process of renovating the property, said Cynthia Orlando, superintendent of the national park.
“The contract should be signed by Monday the 13th,” she said Wednesday. “We’ll get notification from Washington, D.C., and then we’ll hand it over to them (Hawaii Volcanoes Lodge Co.).”
By Aug. 18, Orlando said, the property’s gift shop is expected to have a “soft opening” and be available to purchase a few limited items.
“It will be grab-and-go sandwiches, drinks, limited retail sales,” she explained.
About a week later, the Namakanipaio campground’s 10-tent cabins will also be in operation, said Walt Poole, concessions management specialist at HVNP.
“To get those open, basically they just need new floors and new mattresses,” he said.
Also scheduled to make an early opening to the public will be the eight bedrooms located in the Volcano House’s annex, which was added to the property in 1953.
“They’re going to push to get those open as soon as they can,” Poole said. “Perhaps before the first of the year. It will probably be at a reduced rate, because food and beverage won’t be ready yet.”
All of the hotel’s 32 rooms are expected to be overhauled, as well as the dining area and the addition of a lanai eating area. The entire process is expected to cost between $2.5 and $3 million and be complete sometime in late 2013, Orlando said.
“We are bringing back the culture and the history, and we’re putting more tradition in as many of the spaces as we can,” said Tanya Ortega, co-owner of Ortega National Parks, in an interview earlier this year.
Other features on the property may become available as work on them is completed, Orlando added.
“We’ll be opening things up in phases,” she explained.
Hawaii Volcanoes Lodge Co.’s contract is for 15 years. The company is a subsidiary of Honolulu-based Aqua Hotels and Resorts Inc. and Ortega National Parks LLC, a company with 16 years experience operating concessions at national parks in California and New Mexico.
Volcano House was built in 1846, although the modern building dates back to 1941. During its more than 150-year history, the hotel has been operated by George Lycurgus, Sheraton Hotels and Ken Fujiyama’s Ken Direction Corp.
Ken Direction’s contract expired in December 2008, but the company received a one-year extension while the National Park Service hammered out the details of a contract prospectus seeking a new concessioner. The building has been closed to the public since December 2009, when the National Park Service began a series of seismic and fire safety upgrades costing about $4 million.