Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Cover Story – Sports – Page C1

By Ferd Lewis

February 4, 2020

Updated 12:14 am

Without an appropriation for basic health and safety repairs at deteriorating Aloha Stadium, “We might have to consider closing some sections,” stadium manager Scott Chan said.

The warning comes as the state asks legislators for $7.7 million this session to help bridge the period between the 2020 football season and the projected fall 2023 opening of the new $350 million facility on adjacent land as an anchor of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District.

Curt Otaguro, state comptroller and director of the Department of Accounting and General Services, said the $7.7 million figure represents priority repair issues.

State officials said the most critical areas include the rusting of cross-beam barriers and cantilevers. The situation, Chan said, is particularly acute on the northeast side, where wind and rain have had the most impact.

“If we can address some of those areas, then we should be OK in the inner bowl,” Chan said. “We’re not talking about closing anything on the bottom, unless what’s upstairs becomes a concern.”

Since clients UH and the SoFi Hawaii Bowl have required less than half of the seats at the 50,000-seat facility in recent years, especially on the upper level, “We’ve been been able to minimize some of the areas in use,” Chan said. Seats in some of the upper levels could be removed to replace broken ones on the lower levels in order to save money, Chan said.

Chan said the stadium is currently safe and is being monitored regularly, but that the rust is widespread and the repairs, “are critical in regards to the (structural engineer’s) report that we are basing our request off (of).”

A consultant’s report released in January 2019 cited “approximately 200 weathered steel components” at the facility. It noted “severe corrosion at various connections and at various beam members” at multiple locations.

At the time, the report called for “at minimum” $30 million for repairs over a two-year period.

But state officials said no appropriations have been made in four of the past five years. “We’ve done our best to keep this place up and running, keep it safe and create a pleasant atmosphere for our guests,” Chan said. “In our operational meetings we ask, ‘What can we do to use the least amount of resources or financial support to put into this facility and (still) create a pleasant and safe experience?”

The stadium opened in 1975 at a cost of $37 million, and was claimed to be resistant to corrosion after an initial layer of rust, described as a “protective patina,” developed. But, according to a report prepared for DAGS, “… it was subsequently discovered that the weathering steel is sensitive to salt-laden air environments, which caused the protective patina to continue to corrode.”

Despite more than $80 million in subsequent corrosion abatement efforts, rust problems have endured.