Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Editorial | On Politics

By Richard Borreca

February 14, 2021

If you are going to fumble something, skip the small stuff, go big.

That must be the motivation for Gov. David Ige’s unexplainable decision to back out of supporting a new stadium.

Hawaii does have some tradition of not being able to get its ducks in a row when it comes to a sports stadium to be used by most people in the state. Aloha Stadium replaced the University of Hawaii structure on South King in Moiliili. That wooden stadium was built in the 1920s, but through dithering and false starts, it wasn’t replaced until Aloha Stadium opened in 1975.

At the time, stadium architect Charles Luckman said, “there was no one like it in the world,” predicting it was so innovative tourists would demand to have it included in tours. Well, the tours never materialized and the glories of the 50,000-seat sports palace soon died. It was supposed to move. The stands would float on cushions of air and it could easily be switched from a football-sized rectangle to a baseball diamond. This was done maybe three times before officials gave up trying to make four 31 million-pound stadium sections dance. The stadium was also not supposed to rust away because it was built with a special Cor-Ten steel that “will deepen to lovely deep rose red patina,” according to one columnist. Well, rust it did and the stadium’s rose red faded, as the rust continued.

At $27 million, it was, at the time envisioned, the most expensive thing built in Hawaii.

Now the Legislature is moving to replace it because the state Stadium Authority, which runs the place, closed it saying it was too dangerous for visitors.

A startled University of Hawaii came up with a crash $6 million plan to scrape together a 10,000-seat facility on the UH football practice field. No one really said what high school football teams would use to stand in for the falling-apart, rusted, 46-year-old stadium.

The plan had pukas, but it was a plan and the Legislature was readying up the needed legislation to get things moving, when Ige essentially said, “I dunno.”

Then last week, Ige said: “There are a lot of things that we could do within the existing facility that would make it usable for the university for many, many years to come. And that would, in the overall scheme of things, cost us less in construction funds than we are currently talking about.”

“We can make improvements to the stadium as necessary,” he said.

“That being said, you know it’s just the total cost of a replacement that is really hard to fit into the budget, based on all the construction needs that we have.”

So we have the plans, but not the will, to build the biggest and most important telescope in the world on top of Mauna Kea. We have plans, but they are being redrawn, for the Honolulu rail project — and the will there can be charitably called “divided.”

Finally, it is an open question if we have either the will or plans to build a new stadium to replace the old closed and condemned one. It is fairly clear we don’t have the leadership.