A Hilo businesswoman who bought Hilo Lanes for $2.55 million in March said renovations to turn the long-vacant bowling alley into a fitness gym and commercial center are underway.
“Removing the walls, we had a lot of asbestos and arsenic. We have just completed that phase,” Lorraine Shin told the Tribune-Herald last week. “Now, we’ve applied for a demolition permit and we’re removing all of the bowling alley. I’ve donated as much (of the furnishings) as I could to the community — all of the lockers, the tables and chairs. We put them outside and people just came and took them. Even the floor, a lot of the flooring underneath.”
Shin registered a trade name for the 3.7-acre property, 777 Kinoole Center. She said a little more than half the building, about 20,000 feet, is planned for a UFC Gym BJ Penn. There are four UFC Gym BJ Penn facilities on Oahu, in Waikele, Mililani, the Kakaako neighborhood in Honolulu plus a newly-opened gym in Kailua, Oahu. The Kailua facility has been running television commercials featuring Shin’s son, UFC Hall of Famer BJ Penn, who held title belts in the world’s premier mixed martial arts promotion as a lightweight and welterweight.
“The UFC people are flying in, hopefully sometime this month, so they can walk through with us and let us know what we need to do,” Shin said. “Each gym that is now open has about 8,000 members.”
“What UFC fighter do we know that has more than one gym?” Shin asked, rhetorically. “And now, we’re going to have five. He was the influential incentive that made MMA what it is in Hawaii.”
The family has another gym, Penn Training and Fitness Center, down the street at 639 Kinoole St. Shin said she wanted the bowling alley because the current Hilo gym site, which doesn’t have UFC branding, is “bursting at the seams.”
“We’re at about 2,000 members, give or take. We think with a new gym with a new look and a new image, I don’t think it would be any problem, in time, to grow to four or five thousand,” she said. “We can also really use the parking. There are about 200 parking stalls.”
Shin described the building, constructed in 1960, as “very structurally sound.”
“It’s like you’ve already got a large box and most of it is empty,” she said. “A lot of the work will be the electrical and the plumbing. We don’t see that much structural improvements needed inside, except maybe the backup area. We’re also looking at doing an area for members who have children, sort of a day care area.”
Shin’s plan is to lease the part of the building not being used for the gym to businesses. She hopes the project can be completed in about a year.
“I probably have about 18,000 square feet available,” she said. “I would like to have something like Whole Foods or Down to Earth because I know they’re expanding quite a bit on Oahu. Of course, I’d also like to get a really nice restaurant. I thought about something like Dave &Buster’s, where you have a good restaurant and family recreation and games.
“I’m not in discussions with anyone right now. Right now, my whole focus is getting this place cleaned up, gutting it and getting everything removed.
“We’re moving forward and we’re very excited.”
Email John Burnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.