Volunteers renovate rickety Napilihau Recreation Center
NAPILI – When built in the mid-1970s, Napilihau was a moderately priced, planned unit development (PUD) with 174 homes on almost 38 acres, with playgrounds, garden space and a Recreation Center.
At the time, the proposed price tag of a four-bedroom, single-family home was $36,000. Developed by Honolua Plantation Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Maui Land & Pineapple Company Inc., the housing was a windfall to many.
When families moved in, there were parties.
The Rec Center was the heartbeat of the community, where anniversary celebrations, baby luaus, graduation festivities, wedding receptions and annual homeowner association meetings were held.
It was a gathering place and a hotbed for local political gatherings and developer presentations.
Over the years, the one-room facility housed a number of programs that offered healthy activities for the children and adults of Napili, like hula dancing, lei making, CrossFit, Vacation Bible School and wrestling, to name a few.
Situated on the edge of the trades, the structure has had its enemies during the past four decades, including dry rot, termites, wind, rain and the harsh tropical sun. The assault has been relentless, and the social hall basically lost its structural integrity.
Enter superheroes Rondilyn Franz, Kim Ball, Tom and Tina Cooper, Dan Williams and Danny Lujan – a force of Christian warriors from Harvest at Kumulani Chapel – determined to revive the deteriorated building to its former status.
The Rec Center is the home of the Napili Surfriders of Maui Style Wrestling. Ball, a community leader, innovator and exemplary role model, is the club’s coach and founder.
“It’s been 25 years that we’ve been here in Napilihau,” Ball recalled.
“We started the program up here in Napili, because at the time – it was before Napili Park – if you wanted your kid in a sports program, you had to drive your kid to Lahaina; and, if your parents are working three jobs, they couldn’t participate didn’t have a ride,” he explained.
“When we first started here, it was awesome,” Ball continued. “We’d get all these kids from Napilihau, and they could just walk to practice. That’s how we started.”
Ball is proud of the team’s accomplishments, and there is a billboard hanging in the hall with a long list of the winning wrestlers since 2002.
“You can see by the names on the board that a lot of those kids came right out of the neighborhood. They went on to become MIL (Maui Interscholastic League) and state champions.”
“Our season,” Ball advised, “is March through June. We practice two days a week. We didn’t have one practice last year where we didn’t have water on the mat. We were always constantly towel drying; it was a nightmare.”
During the summertime, the Rec Center is home to the Kumulani Vacation Bible School for one week. Franz is the director of the children’s ministry at Kumulani.
“We’ve been holding a Vacation Bible School every summer since 1999 at the rec hall,” Franz said.
About 120 kids attend the free week-long camp, offering Bible stories, games, crafts and snacks.
The reason Napilihau was the site of choice, Franz observed, “was because so many kids could walk there” from not only Napilihau but also Hui F Road, Hale Noho and Napilihau Villages.
The Rec Center, in other words, was the hub.
Franz described the condition of the building; as of last summer, “It was falling apart.”
“Over time, we’ve redone the kitchen; we’ve replaced toilets; we’ve repainted,” but that wasn’t enough, she said.
That’s when Williams stepped up to the plate.
Williams leads a “not-so-small 501(c)(3) called West Side Hoops.” He describes the program as character building.
“We use basketball to train our kids in the community and keep ’em disciplined. Through our program, we teach basketball, but we’re about youth. If kids make it through our program, we actually help send them to college through scholarships,” he said.
“Dan (Williams) was a big mover and shaker to really jump-start this project,” Ball said.
With funds awarded to West Side Hoops from the Maui Visitor Industry Charity Walk, Williams/West Side Hoops was able to donate $8,000.
Franz, Williams and Ball recognized Lujan for his contributions as well.
Lujan, Pacific Builders, donated his time and labor. Additionally, the contractor from Napili was able to procure materials at cost from Honsador Lumber.
“They were gracious enough to give us that break,” Lujan acknowledged.
It was almost a total rebuild. It took four weeks to complete construction.
“First tore the roof off and put new roofing on. Tore all of the siding literally off and put new siding on, and we rebuilt some of the bone structure of the building that needed it,” he said.
Then it was freshly painted inside and out.
As a capper, Williams noted, “All the guys that were on the roof (in the picture) that were doing the work wrestled for Kim when they were younger.”
Eager to share the credit, Ball recognized fellow Kumulani Chapel members for their contributions as well.
Tom and Tina Cooper have been part of the building blocks at Napilihau from the beginning.
Tom has been the assistant coach for the wrestling team for 25 years. He and his wife, Tina, host a barbecue for the kids after practices on Tuesdays during the season.
“They feed between 50 to 75 people,” Ball said.
Both helped with the restoration project.
Ball also acknowledged Honokohau resident Mundy Gillcoat. “He has been helping us clean the Rec Center, get the room ready for practice and coach for the past 12 years,” he noted.
“The commonality is that we are all Christians,” Williams summarized. “We all love kids, and we all love the Lord. That alone prompted us to act.”
With all of this angelic attention, the Rec Center has truly been revived; it’s a sparkling example of the power of many.