By Andrew Gomes
October 1, 2021
It’s hard to tell how distant the end zone is for redeveloping Aloha Stadium, but one of the quarterbacks leading the project’s long and arduous drive is stepping to the sideline.
Scott Chan, manager of the state’s 46-year-old “Rust Palace” facing an undetermined date with demolition, announced his retirement Thursday during a Stadium Authority board meeting.
The move, effective today, ends a 25-year career for Chan working at the Halawa facility where he also played high school football when the 50,000-seat stadium was spanking new and pretty rust-free in 1975.
“I have decided it’s time to let the new generation of outstanding leaders to carry on and fulfill our vision,” he told the agency’s board. “Although there is still much to do, I want to reassure the group that we have been working with our staff for several years now to make sure that we were prepared for this day and that we make a smooth transition. … I’m very confident that this team is capable of finishing off what we started.”
Chan, 63, added, “I look forward to staying in touch and one day sitting in the stands in the new stadium watching concerts, special events as well as the University of Hawaii compete on the field.”
Redeveloping the stadium’s 98-acre site into a “New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District” with a 35,000-seat stadium along with residential and commercial development produced by private developers has been a state initiative for pretty much the whole time since Chan landed his top management position in 2007.
Early on, Chan was instrumental in facilitating the removal of federal and city deed restrictions on the property to permit ancillary development including retail, restaurants, a hotel and housing.
Other pieces of the effort, which also has been largely driven by state Department of Accounting and General Services officials and private consultants, have included a draft environmental impact statement and several years of troublesome work at the Legislature to secure funding, arrange for a landownership transfer and assigning and reassigning roles among different state agencies.
Early last year a request for qualifications for the redevelopment project was published and led to three developer finalists being selected in December. But since then the project was split in two pieces — stadium replacement and surrounding real estate development — and delays occurred for publishing separate requests for proposals.
Chris Kinimaka, DAGS public works administrator, told the Stadium Authority on Thursday that the stadium replacement RFP will be ready to issue in the “coming weeks,” followed by the other RFP by year’s end.
“We have been hunkering down and really doing all the grunge behind-the-scenes work,” she said. “We’ve been quiet but very busy … to dot our i’s and cross our t’s. We’re very excited moving forward with the new team.”
Under the plan, a private developer would fund much of the new stadium’s roughly estimated $400 million construction cost, maintain the new facility for an agreed-upon price and earn a financial return from the state while state officials manage the new stadium.
Ryan Andrews, the stadium’s deputy manager, will serve as interim manager until the Stadium Authority, a state board overseeing management, selects a permanent replacement.
Andrews has been deputy manager since 2016, and is responsible for day-to-day operations that have been reduced because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Last year stadium revenue declines led to maintenance cutbacks that made stadium seating unsafe. Events have continued on the field and in the parking lot, but UH was forced to improve a field with expanded seating on campus in Manoa at a cost of $8 million to play football games this year.
Stadium officials project a $1.7 million net operating loss for the fiscal year ending in June, but have a $1.2 million cash balance from the prior year and $2.3 million in federal aid to more than offset the operating loss.
Ross Yamasaki, Stadium Authority chairman, said Chan’s move had been in the making for at least almost three years.
“It’s not sudden at all,” he said at the meeting. “Scott’s been in discussion with this decision for nearly three years, and I asked him personally if he could defer that and stay on as we move through getting the RFP process together.”
Chan declined to be interviewed.
In his announcement to the board, he said it was a pleasure to serve the state for nearly 40 years, which includes work at his public high school alma mater.
Chan, once described as a “brilliant field general” for the Kaiser High School football team where he was quarterback, played in the stadium the year it opened during his senior year. He later went on to become Kaiser’s head football coach, then the school’s athletic director.
Chan left Kaiser in 1995 to become the stadium’s assistant events manager, later rising to deputy stadium manager and then to the top job after an interim appointment.
Andrews, the new interim manager, said a lot has happened with the stadium during Chan’s leadership tenure.
“He’s been at the helm during some of the most challenging times at the stadium, as well as the best years the stadium has ever had,” Andrews said. “He has a lot to be proud about, and we are in a debt of gratitude to him.”
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