Ferd Lewis: New stadium could bring NFL back to Halawa

Honolulu Star-Advertiser


By Ferd Lewis

February 23, 2020

With fingers tightly crossed and prayers offered, Hawaii could have a no longer rusty, but shiny New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District opening its gates in 2023.

And once NFL owners eventually get their way with the players union, the NFL could be debuting its 17-game regular season in 2023.

The possibilities of the two concurrent events seem made for a marriage in, well, Halawa.

“It is something I would like to see happen,” Ross Yamasaki, chairman of the Aloha Stadium Authority, said of bringing the NFL back sooner rather than later.

When the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys sold out Aloha Stadium last August it was the first non-Pro Bowl NFL event played in these parts in 43 years, and the success of the venture gave hope that it won’t be several more decades before there is another following in its footsteps.

So, when the NFL announced this past week that its owners were putting a proposal for the expanded 17-game season and wider playoff format on the table in collective bargaining talks with the NFL Players Association, it sure seemed to present an opportunity worth checking out.

One way an expanded regular season would be addressed is that half the teams would play nine home games one season and the other half eight, switching off in even- and odd-numbered years — unless neutral site and international games came into the mix.

Currently, the best guesses are that, once agreed to by the NFLPA, the expanded regular-season schedule would be implemented in 2022 or ‘23 to coincide with new, even more lucrative TV contracts.

And be assured it will, at some point, be agreed upon. That’s because the billionaire NFL owners will want even more return on their investments and eventually will find a way to make it palatable to the players beyond adding an extra open date and dropping an exhibition game.

The NFL will, of course, look to London, Mexico City and Canada, places it has previously played international games. Hawaii would be a logical extension. And, in the case of some, a closer alternative.

After the success of the Rams-Cowboys game, it was reported that the NFL was warming to the idea of playing some neutral site games in U.S. cities without pro teams.

While a definite seating capacity for the NASED facility has yet to be decided upon and a 35,000-40,000-seat plan has been the most prominently mentioned, the Rams said they believe a stadium of that size would not be an automatic deal breaker for a team.

“It isn’t our place to say what they should or should not build here — that is up to what the community feels serves it best — but I don’t think that size is a truly limiting factor,” Kevin Demoff, Rams chief operating officer and executive vice president of football operations said in August. “I think an NFL team that is interested (in coming to Hawaii) would adapt to that.”

With amenities such as club seating, suites and private boxes, people in the industry say a 35,000-or 40,000-seat facility would still be attractive to NFL teams with the potential for revenues to offset a smaller seating capacity.

In the meantime, “I’d be excited about having the NFL back in our new stadium,” Yamasaki said. “I think a lot of people would.”