Honolulu Star-Advertiser


By Ferd Lewis

April 19, 2020

Under “goals and metrics” on the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District website, the capacity for the successor to the current 50,000-seat facility stadium is listed at “35,000” seats.

In the state’s request for qualifications, posted March 27 to help guide prospective development parties in the public-private partnership, the 35,000 figure appears at least five times. It is the most frequently-mentioned number of the last three years by officials as well as a source of controversy for those who argue for more seating.

But 35,000 is apparently far from set in the future concrete and comes with room for discussion.

The flexibility in the figure is a welcome sign, especially as now that the 61-page RFQ provides prospective developers with some latitude in designing the planned $350 million facility.

The RFQ says, “Respondents should note that the purpose of the three concept master plans is not to dictate what is required, but rather to demonstrate how different locations for the New Aloha Stadium within the site can influence development. Priority-listed respondents will be encouraged to explore alternative concepts for the site’s development, possibly identifying even better outcomes for consideration.”

While the paragraph is not specific to seating capacity, it underlines the discretion that developers will have in presenting their proposals and a willingness to look at alternatives.

The project drew representatives from 83 companies across five countries to a pre-response conference call last week. Responses to the RFQ, in which respondents must list their past experience, qualifications and wherewithal for undertaking a project of this scope, are due by May 12.

The state is then scheduled to select up to three priority listed developers by June 8 from which to determine a winning partner. Projections call for the contract to be executed by the first quarter of 2021.

The new facility is scheduled to debut with the University of Hawaii’s Sept. 2, 2023 home football opener against Albany.

The 35,000 figure, officials have said, was arrived at after market sounding and user analysis by stadium consultants who surveyed concert promoters, sports promoters and others while taking in industry trends.

Coincidentally, San Diego State, which is also planning to debut a mixed-use stadium in the same time frame, is talking 35,000 seats for a $315 million facility that would also be capable of being a home for an MLS team.

The number that emerged from Hawaii’s analysis was 35,000, “not 50,000, not 25,000,” said Stacey Jones, owner and principal of Crawford Architects, a state consultant. “But, if somebody wants to make it 37,500 or 32,500, just present their case, business-wise. If it is better deal, if it is a compliant bid, then we’ll consider it.”

With developers putting in their own money, the idea, Jones said, is “The state doesn’t want to be left holding the bag with the developer saying, ‘We would have done a better deal if it wasn’t 35,000.’ ”

Jones added, “We’re not dictating (35,000), just that our best advice is 35,000.” He said, “at this point in time, that isn’t to say that we can’t be trumped by better science between now and then, so we are open to suggestions.”

Which is what you want to hear with as much as there is riding on this project.