Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Ferd’s Words | Sports

By Ferd Lewis

May 29, 2020

Todd Graham has been to Aloha Stadium as a visiting coach and, now that he is the University of Hawaii’s head football coach, he has some definite ideas about what the new stadium should have and look like.

So, when officials of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District came to UH to sit down with Graham and key officials about a vision for the Rainbow Warriors’ future home, he was ready to cite what 30 years of experience had taught him. He was prepared to pass along what time at four Division I programs had shown him and draw them some stadium Xs and Os, as it were.

“I went into the meeting thinking, ‘OK, I know I’m going to have a lot of input,’ ” Graham said. After stops at Rice, Tulsa, Pittsburgh and Arizona State, where facilities were remodeled and significantly upgraded, he said he was prepared to tell them, “Here’s some things we’ve done where I have been in the past.”

Instead, Graham said, he found himself mostly nodding in assent at each turn in what was described as an hour-long presentation that included 3-D slides and conceptual renderings.

In the end, he gave it the seal of approval. “I was thoroughly impressed with their vision, their plan, and how it comes together and will impact the game-day experience,” Graham said.

His feedback, along with that gained through a series of community meetings and sessions with stakeholders over the past year went into a master plan draft shown to officials Thursday. When finalized it will be issued along with the draft environmental impact statement that is also underway.

They will be presented to the priority-listed developer-led teams from a field of six respondents that will receive the request for proposal in July.

The master plan will serve as a suggestion to developers who will have latitude in proposing changes to what’s on the table with NASED as part of the public-private partnership on the 98-acre site they will also put funding into.

“To me, Aloha Stadium is iconic with its location and unbelievable tradition with the Pro Bowl, Hawaii Bowls and Hawaii football,” Graham said. “When you watch a game in that new stadium you are gonna know you are in Hawaii. There were very few things that they didn’t have in it, from how the fans will come in and out and how the teams will function and the meetings rooms and luxury seating.”

Graham said two of his main requests have been for a stadium that provides a strong game-day experience for fans and a daunting venue for visiting teams to walk into after a long trip.

“I want a place that’s hard for opposing teams to play in. The trip over here is a killer, I’ve done it. My deal is wanting the fans to be in tight (and close to the field) for an intimate setting so it is loud and you create a great atmosphere,” Graham said.

He said, “It is like I say to the players before we take the field, we want to give the fans what they want. These people have worked hard (to buy the tickets).”

Graham said, “The way the designs are done, the level of comfort the luxury seating will have, all those things, I think, they did a great job on the venue. It will be a great place to watch or play a game.”