Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Hawaii News

By Andrew Gomes

October 13, 2021

Residential and commercial construction on state land around Aloha Stadium could begin in late 2022 or early 2023 without a projected timetable for replacing the largely condemned 50,000-seat facility.

That’s the latest state expectation for carrying out a massive public-private redevelopment project on 98 acres in Halawa that for 46 years has been home to Hawaii’s largest outdoor entertainment venue.

A consultant to state agencies leading separate but somewhat parallel redevelopment efforts for the stadium on about 25 acres and 73 acres of surrounding real estate explained the expected timing Tuesday as an invitation was published to attract developers interested in producing the larger piece of the plan.

“This is an exciting time,” said Curt Otaguro, head of the state Department of Accounting and General Services, which is leading the procurement efforts. “When else do we have the opportunity to build a new community?”

DAGS published the request online for bidders to submit their qualifications and a preliminary master plan that could include around 3,300 homes, including affordable housing desired by the state, 650 hotel rooms, retail space, offices and at least 4,000 parking spaces.

The whole shebang, along with a new stadium, comprises what project officials have dubbed the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District.

For the larger piece of the project, a developer is being sought to lease the site for up to 99 years and pay the state rent that could be used to cover taxpayer expenses for building a new stadium costing around $400 million.

David Harris, a NASED project director with WT Partnership, said signing a contract with a winning bidder is expected by September with construction possibly starting soon after that.

“So we could be looking at real estate development occurring on site towards the end of 2022, perhaps early 2023,” he said. “But ultimately, that will be confirmed through the procurement process.”

Meanwhile, even an estimated timetable for replacing the rusted 46-year-old Aloha Stadium is undetermined.

NASED officials selected three stadium construction teams as qualified to compete for the job late last year, but haven’t yet requested proposals.

Previously, NASED officials aimed to open a new stadium in time for the University of Hawaii to play football games in the 2023 fall season before demolishing the existing stadium.

But then last year seating was declared off-limits for safety reasons, and the decision was made to demolish the stadium before building a new one.

In response, UH scrambled to retrofit its Clarence T.C. Ching Athletic Complex practice facility to accommodate 9,000 fans this year and perhaps 15,000 next year.

The move by UH didn’t affect stadium replacement timing, according to Chris Kinimaka, public works administrator at DAGS.

Kinimaka said the coronavirus pandemic was the culprit, as it created uncertainty as to when a roughly 35,000-seat new stadium might be a magnet for surrounding development.

Development of housing can be viable with or without a new stadium, and that is where much of the initial redevelopment focus could be for some of the 73 acres.

State officials envision redevelopment around the stadium footprint will be done in phases over two decades or more and cost over $1 billion.

On Tuesday, NASED project officials described how an initial element of the project could be a cluster of buildings with homes, a hotel and retail connected to a city rail station potentially in use next year with trains running between the stadium site and East Kapolei.

A conceptual rendering by Crawford Architects, a state consultant, showed what such an element could look like, though actual plans will come from a winning developer.

A committee led by state officials and development industry experts will evaluate developer submissions.

The committee will score developers on criteria that include experience, project approach and financial design.

Initial submittals from developers are due by Dec. 3, and finalists are expected to be selected by the end of January. Then detailed proposals will be due by June, followed by a winning bid picked by September.

As for the stadium replacement, the NASED team expects to deliver a request for proposals to the three finalists before the end of the year.

Under this piece of the plan, a winning developer is expected to finance much of the cost because the Legislature approved only up to $170 million in general obligation bonds for NASED.

The stadium developer also would receive an agreed-upon sum from the state to maintain the new facility for 30 to 40 years while the Stadium Authority, a state agency, manages a new stadium.

Originally, state officials envisioned one developer would redevelop the stadium and surrounding land, but that plan was split into two pieces earlier this year.