By Ferd Lewis
As the process to build a successor to Aloha Stadium unfolds, legislators this session will have to decide how much money to put into health and safety repairs to keep the current facility operational until the projected 2023 change-over.
The session begins Wednesday.
The Stadium Authority and its parent agency, the Department of Accounting and General Services, requested a $16.7 million appropriation, according to officials. Gov. David Ige’s budget request, they said, was $7.7 million.
“Based upon the structural engineers’ recommendations, we’ve been looking at what it would take to bridge the existing stadium to the time of the (new) development without spending any more money than we have to,” said Ross Yamasaki, Stadium Authority chairman.
The state has appropriated $350 million to build the new stadium adjacent to the current one as a centerpiece of a 98-acre public-private partnership, but requested funds for health and safety repairs have not been granted in three of the previous four fiscal years (2016, ’18 and ’19), according to a DAGS official.
“We need to stop the financial hemorrhaging at Aloha Stadium. It needs another $16.7 million this year to fix all the mounting problems,” said state Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Kalihi, Pearl Harbor). “Getting a new stadium built soon is … an imperative.”
In November, some upper level restrooms were unusable due to failing water pumps in the 45-year-old facility. The eight water pumps that supplied the upper concourse were so obsolete that replacements had to be specially ordered and fabricated, then shipped here at a cost of approximately $80,000, stadium manager Scott Chan has said.
A report by a consulting structural engineering firm last January cited examples of approximately 200 weathered steel components and 85 decking panels “exhibiting severe corrosion” and said the stadium would require “at minimum” $30 million over the next two years to remain safe and operable.
State officials have targeted a September 2023 opening for the new stadium to coincide with the University of Hawaii football team’s home opener against Albany.