The National Park Service said today that the much-awaited reopening of the USS Arizona Memorial to walk-on access will take place this Labor Day weekend on Sunday after a 15-month closure.
“The National Park Service is excited to welcome our visitors back to the USS Arizona Memorial very soon,” Pearl Harbor National Memorial Acting Superintendent Steve Mietz said in a release. “It is a great honor to share the stories of the men of the USS Arizona, and all of those who served, suffered and sacrificed on Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941. That is the cornerstone of our mission here, and restoration of public access to this iconic place is critical as we continue to tell their stories and honor their memory.”
The park service said that since May of 2018 when the memorial closed to foot traffic, multiple phases of a repair project for an adjacent dock have been completed including analysis, contracting, design, environmental compliance, mobilization, unexploded ordnance screening, resource preservation and project execution.
Until the memorial reopens, visitors can still visit the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center’s two free museums and participate in ticketed programs that include a 25-minute feature film and a narrated harbor tour of Battleship Row on U.S. Navy vessels, officials said.
Christine Benotti Jannetto said on the Pearl Harbor National Memorial Facebook page that the reopening is “wonderful news.”
“We were there last year during the time of Hurricane Lane and were lucky that the winds weren’t high enough in the harbor to stop the boat cruise around the monuments,” she said. “Such an emotional and humbling time at Pearl Harbor. I hope I can go back now that the memorial is open.”
But Michael Richter bemoaned the timing, saying, “Of course it is (reopening). I was just there 12 days ago. Uhg.”
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The visitor center is free and no tickets are required to see the museums and grounds.
The USS Arizona Memorial program is 75 minutes long. It starts in the theater with a 25-minute documentary and is followed by a boat ride to the memorial, time at the memorial and a boat ride back. Programs begin every 15 minutes from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
With the closure of the memorial, visitors still watch the 25-minute documentary and then board the boat for a ride to the memorial, but instead of disembarking, are taken on a narrated harbor tour near the memorial along Battleship Row. The modified tour takes about an hour, according to the park service.
Free tickets for the program are available at www.recreation.gov. Over 1,300 free memorial tickets are handed out daily on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning at 7 a.m.
The National Park Service oversees the memorial at ground zero of the surprise Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941, that sought to cripple the U.S. Pacific Fleet — and in the process drew America and its industrial might into World War II.
A total of 1,177 lives were lost on the Arizona, which still ranks as the Navy’s single greatest loss of life.
The sunken battleship memorial, one of the most visited attractions in the state, sees 4,000 to 5,000 people a day. In 2018 nearly 1.8 million people visited the Pearl Harbor site.
Access to the memorial was suspended in May 2018 when park staff noticed minor damage to its attached floating concrete dock where boat passengers disembarked. Inspection of the dock revealed a failure of its anchoring system, which allowed too much lateral movement at the spot where passengers disembark from Navy boats.
A series of “helical” pilings were screwed into the seafloor, and synthetic rope was attached to a corresponding dozen points on the 105-foot dock as part of a more than $2.1 million fix, officials said.