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The good thing about Aloha Stadium is that it was built at a time when Hawaii was full of bravado and claiming America’s newest state could keep up with the big boys.
It would be a 50,000-seat marvel that would allow the University of Hawaii football team to attract national-caliber opponents in a stadium with bleachers that would rise on cushions of high-pressure air to transition from baseball to soccer configurations. It would be an entertainment magnet, drawing in the likes of Michael and Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, the Rolling Stones, Bruno Mars and Eminem. Meanwhile, it serves as a venue for high school football.
And the top selling point: It wouldn’t rust. Special steel and treatments would laugh in the face of Hawaii’s trade wind-driven salty air; This baby would last.
Now for the bad stuff. It has rusted. It required constant maintenance, and the added irony was that it outlasted its years while no one felt the urgency to actually build a replacement.
Aloha Stadium has given Hawaii what it needs for long enough. During its 45-year history, the venue was home to the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and was the site of 35 Pro Bowls from 1980 to 2016. It was also the home base for the Hawaii Islanders of the Minor League Baseball Pacific Coast League (’76 to ’87).
The 2020 closure was not in secret. Discussions, plans and studies were carried out for a new facility. The only thing missing is some action.
Even outgoing governor David Ige, who not least adores the Temple of Advanced Planning, has yet to give the public a plan.
And now that there are days, not years, until his tenure, Ige said he is close to announcing his plans, which are expected to be a makeover of old plans.
By now, even state officials can see that Ige is still a bit late.
With Ige already considering revising existing plans, the bureaucracy is already waiting for Ige to pull the trigger.
Speaking on Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s livestream show “Spotlight Hawaii” last week, Ryan Andrews, manager of Aloha Stadium, and Chris Kinimaka, public works administrator at the state Department of Accounting and General Services, said they were ready.
“We’ve been waiting for that green light,” Andrews said. “So I think my concern is that any change at this point will cause a delay or will mean that we have to start over and that I’d be reluctant to see is start over that process and this one to push the project even further. ‘
State Senator Glenn Wakai, who heads the committee in charge of the stadium, was less tactful in describing Ige’s ability to get the job done.
“I just don’t get it, if we’ve been paralyzed for almost eight years, why would this government wake up two months before they leave and create so much confusion? Just walk away quietly and let the next governor, whoever that may be, take over and run this project,” Wakai said in an interview with Hawaii Public Radio.
“We spent $20 million on consultants and planners in two years to get us to this point. And if we go backwards, you start from scratch – it’s a total waste of time and money,” he told Catherine Cruz of HPR.
As the days slip off Ige’s retirement calendar, the only certainty is that Hawaii’s ninth-elected governor will be sworn into office on December 5, 2022, and Hawaii still won’t have a new stadium.
Richard Borreca writes about politics on Sundays. Reach him at [email protected]