By Ferd Lewis
February 11, 2021
Without a significant amount of investment in repair and maintenance, the operation of the current Aloha Stadium will be without fans in the stands, officials acknowledged to lawmakers on Wednesday.
In testimony before the state Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism, Stadium Manager Scott Chan and deputy manager Ryan Andrews painted a grim picture of the decrepit 46-year-old facility.
Andrews said the last full structural integrity assessment of the facility was completed in 2018, and, “There was a whole laundry list of areas that needed to be addressed.”
He said there were several areas deemed critical “that had to be addressed in a 24-month period and, unfortunately, those 24 months have come and gone and those items weren’t funded or repaired so they exist today.”
Although the stadium sought at least $50 million in health and safety funding over a three-year period, officials said the facility did not receive any appropriations for the work.
Andrews said, “So we need to have another assessment to see what has taken place before we can allow people back in the facility.” But, Andrews cautioned, “We run the risk of learning even more about the facility. Additional items (of concern) could be identified.”
Committee chairman Glenn Wakai (D, Kalihi-Pearl Harbor) asked, “So, we should pretty much have the mind-set that if we are ever going to use the stadium itself it will only be for on-field activities and don’t even think that we’re going to put fans in the bleachers, correct?”
Andrews replied, “Not without a significant amount of investment, correct.”
The revelations come as Gov. David Ige has suggested the state might invest in repair and maintenance of the rusting stadium to keep it usable for the University of Hawaii football team “for many, many years to come” instead of spending $350 million for a new facility as part of a public-private partnership with a yet-to-be-selected development partner.
Ige said on Tuesday, “Right now we’re looking at all options.”
Between 2008 and 2017 reports indicate the state spent $98 million on health and safety issues at the stadium and a 2017 report by forensic structural analysts hired by the state warned that $300 million in critical health and safety repairs — and an additional $121 million to address ADA standards — would be needed to keep the stadium fully operational for more than a decade. The report noted that a new stadium could be built for $324.5 million in 2017 dollars.
Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D, Mililani Mauka, Wahiawa), who chairs the powerful Ways and Mans Committee and has endorsed the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District concept, said, “We need a long-term fix and this will help stabilize the economy with construction. (And) we need a plan with the kind of mixed use development public-private partnership to pay for the long-term operations of the stadium. If we just go ahead and try to fix the stadium to keep the existing structure, the on-going maintenance costs are going to have to come out of the general fund.”
Dela Cruz said, “This is a time when we should be sharing liabilities with the private sector, especially since there is no way the state is going to consume the entire capital improvement budget or even half the budget at Aloha Stadium when we have so many competing needs. The (P-3) plan that is being pushed now, not only creates revenue but, in the long term will create more tax revenue for the state. You’re talking about leveraging the entire 98 acres (of the stadium property).”
In a structural assessment snapshot during closed-door executive session late last year, forensic analysts reportedly projected an immediate $10 million bill for basic health and safety issues. Concerns were said to have been expressed about key elements of diagonal bracing and failing drains that could pose hazards to spectators.
More than 80 complete rows of seats and more than 150 other locations are so corroded that they were described as requiring comprehensive repairs.
The consultant is said to have reiterated a need for major repairs while also noting that minor repairs have not been recapped.
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