HONOLULU — The Polynesian Cultural Center always has been predominantly an all-day attraction with its re-created island villages, buffet and luau offerings, and elaborate evening show.
But in the most ambitious expansion project since the center opened in Laie in 1963, the PCC has a new 119,000-square foot Hukilau Marketplace, which will feature more than 40 stores, eateries and attractions.
The Hukilau Marketplace, part of the center's ongoing 10-year, more than $100 million renovation, is expected to target a new audience — drive-by visitors — as well as all-day tourists and locals. It also is expected to give a revenue boost to the PCC, which has seen attendance and revenue decline slightly in recent years.
And with the adjacent 144-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel scheduled to open in mid-June, visitors will have another option besides the Turtle Bay Resort and bed-and-breakfasts to spend more than one day on the North Shore.
Alfred Grace, president and chief executive officer of the PCC, said the marketplace is the fulfillment of a long-term vision.
"To see us get to the point where we're now opening the Hukilau Marketplace, it's really coming to the end of a major build phase here at the Polynesian Cultural Center," Grace said Wednesday during a media preview. "From many perspectives, it's the most ambitious build phase that the PCC has gone through in its history. We're looking forward to hosting the locals and the visitors as they come out here and experience this new portion of the Polynesian Cultural Center that really honors old Laie."
The Hukilau Marketplace, which underwent construction in October 2013, was built in the center's existing parking lot and the non-parking space that was underused by the Pacific Theater, which showcases the evening musical-and-dance show "Ha: Breath of Life" as well as the annual World Fireknife Championships.
The PCC has hired 150 additional employees to bring the total workforce at the center to 1,200. The PCC's mission is to provide financial support to students at nearby Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Many of those students work at the center.
"Our primary target will be our visitors to Hawaii who are not only coming to the Polynesian Cultural Center but also those who are driving around the island," Grace said. "Oahu has one of the finest circle-island drives of any island destination in the world —Pearl Harbor, the pineapple fields, Dole Plantation, Haleiwa, the North Shore beaches, and now here the Hukilau Marketplace, and Kualoa Ranch. What we wanted to do is just not add to the crowd but more importantly add to the mix as far as the experiences that people could have driving around Oahu."
The 22,800 square feet of new retail space at the Hukilau Marketplace is more than twice as large as the 11,000 square feet of retail space that existed in the old marketplace demolished in May 2013.(backslash)
To attract short-term visitors, the PCC dropped its $10 parking fee and is now offering free parking for both the marketplace and the center. It also is encouraging motorists to stop and use the restrooms and take a look at what the center has to offer. In addition, the PCC is offering 15-minute canoe tours through the village grounds of the center for $10 per person. If a guest decides to purchase admission to the PCC, the $10 will count as a credit toward the guest's total. General admission for adults is $50 and for children, ages 5-11, is $40. Kamaaina get 20 percent off.
One of the main gathering places in the marketplace figures to be Pounders Restaurant, which is named after a popular Laie bodysurfing location. Chef Sean Priester will oversee a menu that includes Hawaii-style food as well as pizza, sandwiches and salads. Pounders will open for the first time to the public at 5 p.m. Saturday for dinner and beginning Monday will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
"I want to be relevant in the community so I tried to create a menu that people will connect to that will drive them to us — pipi kaula, saimin, things like that, as well as crab cakes, rib-eye steaks and all those kinds of fun dishes," Priester said. "We like to say the menu has a familiarity with a twist."
Goo's Old Plantation Store, which offers souvenirs and convenience items, has ties to a former family owned store in the Laie community.
"Goo's is a nod to the past," said Shelly Easton, general manager of retail for the PCC. "It's got some very fun things in here that you're not going to find anywhere else on the North Shore."
Among those items are a large cooler designed as a Volkswagen bus, and a mailbox shaped as a cow.
Some of the other attractions in the Hukilau Marketplace include Nona's Tropical Threads, featuring island-style fashions for men, women and children; the Hannemann family-owned Seven Brothers, which will operate a food truck on the Roulotte Court serving seafood dishes; Aunty Emily's Bakery, which offers meat pies, malasadas and "panipopo" (traditional Samoan bread topped with coconut milk); frozen yogurt stand Ono-Yo; Hapa Home Store, which carries room accessories; and Jaseboards, a North Shore-based longboard-street- board company started by Jase Bennett.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com