Outdoor Concert News: The Waikīkī Shell Amphitheater is Under Renovation

Don’t count on seeing summer concerts at the Waikīkī Shell. The 63-year-old amphitheater is upping its game.
Waikiki Shell closes
Photo: James Nakamura


It’s been a long time coming: The Tom Moffatt Waikīkī Shell is getting a makeover. Renovations at the outdoor venue are slated to start in September. Concerts are on hold for a while, but the payoff could be bigger acts playing near the beach at Waikīkī.


Folks have been flocking to the Shell for years—since 1956, to be exact. Named for the shell-shaped dome, designed for optimal acoustics, the Shell has Diamond Head as its majestic backdrop and Waikīkī Beach right across the street. But the venue has seen its own share of wear and tear thanks to its proximity to the beach—the wind, rain and salt water haven’t done any favors for the steel-and-metal-panel arches, according to Mary E. Lewis, events and services administrator at the Department of Enterprise Services.


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The biggest fix will be leveling the wood stage floor. “Some of the expansion of the joints of the tongue-and-groove flooring and pooling of water could be a problem,” Lewis says. “It is being replaced with a more suitable marine-grade wood product, making sure it can bear sufficient weight.” Plans also call for upgraded rigging, to support heavier equipment.


The city plans to fundraise for a statue, sign or plaque in memory of concert promoter Tom Moffatt, whom the Shell was named after in 2018.


So, what exactly would this mean for the concert venue? Think bigger and flashier shows. “Right now, our rigging can hold about 500 pounds of equipment. We want it to be able to hold 6,000 pounds,” says Lewis. This would support LED modules, stage laser lights, projector screens and upgraded sound systems.


Right now, there’s a smaller project going on. The two ‘Ewa side dressing room restrooms are being redone and former storage rooms are being combined, which will mean more space backstage. “The contractor has used the materials from the existing rooms to create more space, using much of the original redwood,” says Lewis.


While the work is going on, events can still be held at the hula amphitheater located makai of the Shell lawn. The project should be completed in spring 2020, in time for graduations and another year of summer concerts.


“The Shell is a beautiful venue and a wonderful place to hear music and we’re hoping that it’ll get used more often to bring music into people’s lives,” Lewis says.