Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Hawaii News | Sports

By Ferd Lewis

February 26, 2021

Updated 12:01 a.m.

As companion bills to bolster the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District advanced through the Legislature this week, the University of Hawaii has stepped up its campaign to gain a larger voice in the facility’s future.

Two similar measures, Senate Bill 1423 and House Bill 1348, made major progress with SB 1423 sent to the House Wednesday and HB 1348, which was passed out of the Finance Committee on Thursday, expected to go to a floor vote next week.

During a hearing on HB 1348, Kalbert Young, UH vice president for budget and finance/CFO, said, “We are supportive of this measure, and we are supportive of the new stadium project. However, I would like to point out in our testimony that the university is requesting that (since) this bill also seeks to add two additional (community) members to the Stadium Authority, we think it only appropriate and prudent that the Legislature should amend the current statute and include the UH representative to be a voting member on the stadium authority board.”

Currently, there are nine voting members on the authority appointed by the governor and, by statute, two ex-officio members, one for the UH president and one for the superintendent of the Department of Education, or their representatives.

The current proposal is to add two new voting representatives to the Stadium Authority: one resident of the Aiea area and one resident of the Foster Village- Salt Lake area.

State Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson (D, Moanalua-Aiea), who introduced HB 1348, said, “I certainly understand UH’s perspective, and if I was UH I would ask for the same thing. I think where it gets a little more complicated is because the Stadium Authority ends up being sort of the governing body as it pertains to the whole vision for the 98 acres. It is not just about the stadium. So, it begs the question of should UH be also dictating, as a voting member, what happens to all the other acreage that isn’t the stadium.”

Under questioning by the committee, Young said, “My suggestion is that since (UH) is the primary (or) one of the primary users and purposes for the development of the stadium, (and) given the discussions that go on at the Stadium Authority for operations as well as for the major public works project, it is appropriate that the representative of (UH) is actually a voting member in the decision-making process.”

In a strongly worded Jan. 7 memorandum to the state Department of Accounting of General Serv­ices, the Stadium Authority and key members of the Legislature, UH said, “We have also come to realize that UH is largely a spectator in a process managed by others that invites our input but makes decisions without our involvement.”

At the time UH did not demand a voting seat on the board. The DOE has not publicly pressed for a voting membership.

Overall, Johanson said eventual passage of the stadium bills “looks very promising. The House and Senate have been working closely and collaboratively to arrive at mutually agreeable language because we need to get this right. The (NASED) exists, but we need to be sure (not only of) its governance structure and its ability to execute and build the stadium to maximize the taxpayers’ investment well, but also that there is a good structure in place to maximize the true potential of the rest of the 98-acre campus.”