Honolulu Star-Advrtiser

Cover Story – Sports 

By Ferd Lewis

February 21, 2020


Luxury boxes, ample parking, enhanced tailgating opportunities and an improved fan experience are among the items on the University of Hawaii’s wish list for its future football home in the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District, officials said.

The current projection is for the $350 million facility to open in time for the Rainbow Warriors’ 2023 Sept. 2 home opener against Albany.

UH officials — including since-departed head football coach Nick Rolovich, soccer coach Michele Nagamine, athletic director David Matlin and president David Lassner — have had meetings in recent months with stadium officials and NASED consultants.

“We want an improved business deal,” Lassner told the Star-Advertiser’s editorial board. “I didn’t want to say ‘relationship,’ because we have a great relationship with the Stadium Authority folks. They do everything they can to help us, but they are stuck with a facility that is completely out of maintenance (in) terrible condition. They don’t have enough money to keep it maintained, so whatever revenue (comes in)…they are also fighting to keep the thing in usable condition. So we’re very sympathetic to their plight and our goal with the new stadium is that we can structure a different kind of business arrangement with the stadium so that playing a home game is a strong financial benefit to us.”

Matlin has characterized the new facility as a potential “game-changer” for UH, which has had limited revenue potential beyond ticket sales in the current facility.

UH does not receive revenue from concessions and must pay for cleanup, security, staffing and utilities averaging approximately $80,000 per game in 2019. But UH may purchase and resell some parking. In addition, it may sell field-level advertising and can receive rebates toward expenses if attendance hits agreed-upon thresholds.

UH and San Diego State are the only schools in the 12-member Mountain West Conference that did not own or operate their football stadiums in 2019. SDSU hopes to have an on-campus stadium by 2025.

While the seating capacity at NASED has yet to be decided, Lassner said “I think the numbers that have been talked about, typically 25,000-35,000, I think that’s OK with me.”

Lassner added, “We don’t need 50,000 seats and it would not bother me personally if we had more sellouts in a smaller stadium and people began to believe (that if) we want to go to the game we’d better buy season tickets.”

UH has gone 80 consecutive games over 11 seasons without a home sellout.

“Now we have an opportunity to make this stadium a real economic driver,” said state Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Kalihi, Pearl Harbor). “We can’t have that now because the (current) stadium is a real money pit. I think when the new stadium opens it is going to be a fantastic new venue for the public (and) UH is going to be one of the biggest beneficiaries.”