Honolulu’s quest for a public auditorium can be traced back to soon after WWI- memorial auditorium facilities were originally planned along with the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, but failed to materialize due to lack of funding. After WWII, the need for a public auditorium became more evident, but this time as a memorial to those who served and sacrificed during WWII.
The 1955 Legislature passed Act 145 authorizing $3 million in bonds for the City to construct a War Memorial Municipal Auditorium. These funds were used to purchase the land that Blaisdell Center now stands on. By then, the idea was for the auditorium to honor those from Hawaii who served and sacrificed in both WWII and Korea.
By 1961, quarrels over funding and design came to a head and the whole project almost died. But the concept of the auditorium as a war memorial still stood. Ground was broken on Honolulu’s new War Memorial Municipal Auditorium, now named the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, on May 25, 1962.
Why the NBC wasn’t dedicated as a WWII and Korean War memorial is unknown. It appears knowledge of its memorial aspect in general was forgotten by 1963. Indeed, then Mayor Neal Blaisdell had to be reminded of this by State Senator Sakae Takahashi, a veteran of the famed 100th Infantry Battalion.
To his credit, Mayor Blaisdell promptly initiated plans to see the new auditorium dedicated to all of Hawaii’s war veterans, regardless of what conflict they served in, and it was finally consecrated as a war memorial on Sept. 12, 1964.