Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Ferd’s Words | Sports

By Ferd Lewis
January 31, 2020

The sun reflected off the smiling bronze bust of Gov. John A. Burns fronting Aloha Stadium and, for a couple hours Thursday morning, it seemed like a true nexus of the facility’s future was particularly bright with possibilities.

Ever since the $9.2 billion — and counting — rail project leaped off the drawing board and attached itself to our wallets and purses, we’ve been told how the station on the Kamehameha Highway edge of the stadium’s property would make commuting to events there convenient as well as help relieve congestion at the site. A “game changer,” it has been repeatedly called.

So when a representative from the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit affirmed to the Aloha Stadium Authority Thursday the so-called “10-10-20-20” — Oct. 10, 2020 — projection for rail to debut delivering fans to the stadium from the West Side, coinciding with the University of Hawaii’s game on that date with New Mexico State, hopes were raised.

“As we get closer is it feasible that UH football fans might see …,” Stadium Authority member John Fink inquired.

“Yes,” replied Tom Peck, HART area construction manager.

There was a palpable enthusiasm in the room. “I’m excited,” said Stadium Authority Chairman Ross Yamasaki, a UH lineman from the late 1980s.

It all seemed to finally be lining up for this year. There would be a new head football coach at UH, the long-awaited arrival of rail and maybe even by that time, on an adjacent portion of the 96-acre parcel, the breaking of ground on the new $350 million stadium.

Then, after the meeting had ended, came the online breaking news report from the Star-Advertiser’s Kevin Dayton that Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell was dumping a tub of cold water on some of those hopes. The mayor repudiated the rail date announced earlier this month by HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins.

While it is HART’s responsibility to build the 20-mile rail line from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, the operator of the system will be the city’s Department of Transportation Services. And the rail doesn’t roll until DTS is ready to begin pushing the button.


“Internally, the city’s target date is December 2020, but the city is not yet confident in the ability to open
by that date,” Caldwell wrote in a letter dated Wednesday.

So, in the mayor’s view, not only is October out, but so is November, and now even December is open
to question. Which sounds suspiciously like sometime in 2021. With who knows how many more years
and billions of dollars for it to eventually get from Halawa to the Ala Moana Center finish line.

“The board should require HART to cease making promises to the public of an artificial starting date of
rail service,” Caldwell wrote, lest the city look bad.

“We’ve got to get together with HART and DTS, have some discussions and see what the situation is,”
said Scott Chan, Aloha Stadium manager, trying to sound hopeful. At least, there will be the return of
597 parking stalls to the stadium allotment when HART finishes its part of the project.

Meanwhile, the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District is striving to be the anti-rail and meet its
projected fall 2023 delivery for the UH home opener, on time and on budget.

It need only look at the unused concrete guidelines high above its property and an empty rail station
come October for inspiration in meeting its deadlines.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com or 529-4820.