Hawaii is in a race against time to rebuild Aloha Stadium

Oct. 3—In addition to the mix of sports and entertainment, another key similarity in the two stadium projects is that Snapdragon is a walk away from a stop on a new light-rail transit system.

Second of two parts------Before the new Aloha Stadium can be built, it must be decided who will build it. And with every passing day without that decision, the buying power of the $400 million allotted for it by the state Legislature shrinks.

David Harris of Crawford Architects, a consultant for the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District project, recently said that each month of delay takes away around $2 million from the quality of the stadium $400 million could provide.

His estimate is based on construction cost escalation of slightly above 6 % over the next 12 months, and takes into account the cost of shipping material to Hawaii.

"Building material costs never go down, " Sean Sudol, a civil engineer and former San Diego State quarterback, said before the Aztecs' home opener Sept. 3 at its new Snapdragon Stadium. "They don't stay the same. They just go up."—RELATED :

That's one reason why Lt. Gov. Josh Green, front-runner in the race to be Hawaii's next governor, told stadium planners he expects a shorter timeline for completion of Aloha Stadium than the most recently announced estimate of five years.

Green, who won the Democratic Party primary in August, insists that housing be a big part of any plan that includes accompanying private development. "Building housing should be on a parallel course with building the stadium, " Green said in a recent interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

San Diego State University athletic director John David Wicker was a major force in getting the recently opened Snapdragon Stadium built in just two years after the city sold the land to the school for the Mission Valley project, which is similar in some ways to Hawaii's planned NASED.

"When I was at Georgia Tech (as senior associate athletic director ), we hosted six or seven football games a year, and maybe a concert, " Wicker said. "I vowed if I ever built a stadium, it wouldn't be something you use only seven times a year. What a waste. That really stuck with me when I got back to San Diego and had an opportunity to build from scratch. It gives you a lot more flexibility. We want to be activating it 365 days a year. To do that you have to create spaces where you can host a variety of events, whether they be weddings, sales meetings. That's something y'all can do in Honolulu, too."

In addition to the mix of sports and entertainment, another key similarity in the two stadium projects is that Snapdragon is a walk away from a stop on a new light-rail transit system. Hono ­lulu's long-delayed and over-­budget rail system also includes a station near Aloha Stadium, which is envisioned as a link for not only sports and entertainment fans, but also the residents of the planned housing that Green says is critical to the area's overall development.

When Green met with the planners last month, he asked them to cut two months for completion of proposals by the finalists for the stadium construction.

The latest plan in place has a goal of a new stadium being ready for use in 2027, after the state chooses a winner from among three finalists for the stadium and two for the accompanying entertainment district more than a year from now.

"I asked them to shorten the RFP process to six months if we're going to do it. We're mindful of costs, " Green said. "When I told them six months, they kind of looked at me, but I said, 'You guys can do it.' I told them it can't be rocket science, and others out there have done the same or similar."

Stadium Authority board member Michael Yadao agrees with Green and contends that the RFP period could be even shorter.

"An RFP response period of four to six months is industry standard and is an appropriate time frame for the three priority-listed development teams, " Yadao said. "All three short-listed teams have already committed an enormous amount of time, energy and resources into developing the best possible proposal and are anxiously awaiting the RFP. Simply put, the eight-month time frame is too long."

Much or all of that could be affected by the surprise announcement made Sept. 21 by Gov. David Ige, whose second and final term ends in December.

Ige said the state would shift gears from the existing New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District plan to something else that would prioritize getting the stadium built in Halawa as quickly as possible with the money allotted by the state Legislature.

The budgeted $400 million, including $50 million earmarked for maintenance, is enough to build an adequate stadium, Ige said.

Proponents of the public-­private partnership model of NASED say the plan means the Stadium Authority won't need to ask the Legislature for more money in future years to pay for upkeep. And state Public Works Administrator Chris Kinimaka said the environmental impact statement approved for the NASED project isn't a one-size-fits-all for any stadium project in the Halawa area.

There has been speculation that Ige's plan is to have the University of Hawaii be charged with building and running the new stadium. But at the time of Ige's "new direction " announcement, many people who would be involved in executing such a move said they had not heard anything about it.

A statement from UH President David Lassner that afternoon did not address what, if any, role the university might have in building and /or running a new stadium :

"For nearly a decade our message has been consistent : We do not have a position on who builds and operates the stadium, but we need better financial arrangements with the venue where we play our home football games. The untimely decommissioning of Aloha Stadium made our situation more difficult and we look forward to a timely project that will send a clear message of Hawaii's commitment to the only major athletic program within 2, 200 miles. ... Clarence T.C. Ching Field will continue as our interim venue and we are appreciative of the support of all who are making it possible for us to expand its capacity as needed to maintain our FBS football status. And we will continue to engage with the state on future plans for Aloha Stadium to do our best to shape a project that is good for the state and good for UH and can be completed as soon as possible with the resources provided during the last legislative session."

Build on campus Others say the idea of building a new stadium in Halawa to replace the original Aloha Stadium was never a good one.

Duke Aiona, Green's Republican opponent in the gubernatorial election, spoke of UH building its own stadium on campus when he ran for the same office in 2010, after serving as Gov. Linda Lingle's lieutenant governor.

He now says it's still the best move. But Aiona knows it can't happen unless the Legislature's requirement that the funding be used for a stadium in the same area as the original Aloha Stadium is changed.

"The better placement is on campus, " Aiona said in a Sept. 13 phone interview with the Star-Advertiser. "But if it has to be in Halawa, the proposal for commercial real estate and housing (in the NASED plan ) is very reasonable and should be seriously considered.

"I felt it was the time then (to build an on-campus stadium in 2010 ), " Aiona added. "I said we should do it (then ) because we knew the costs would go up. I felt it was the time, and on-campus would be ideal, even if we had to go with 20, 000 or 25, 000 as capacity. The price would have been around $40 million."

Aiona lost that election to Neil Abercrombie. In 2021, Abercrombie and two other former governors, John Waihee and Ben Cayetano, wrote an open letter recommending an on-campus stadium instead of one in Halawa.

The university recently announced it would pump up the capacity at Ching to at least 15, 000 in time for the start of the 2023 football season, part of a $30 million on-campus athletic facilities improvement.

UH senior Malia Faramarzi, who is from Encinitas, in San Diego County, grew up going to games at Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park. As a college student she has attended games at Aloha Stadium and the Ching Complex.

"(Ching ) is a lot better and easier for some students because it's on campus, " the former Rainbow Wahine soccer player said. "But I did go to Aloha Stadium (to watch football ) as a freshman, and I loved it. It felt so cool to be in such a big stadium."

Green and Aiona both said as governor they would be intolerant of delays and cost overruns, such as those that have plagued Honolulu's rail project and other major public works in Hawaii.

Green said he would assign a staff member to closely monitor all aspects of the stadium construction and associated project, the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District.

"We also want complete transparency. No overages, " he said. "We need to ensure it will be like other projects where the taxpayer gets their money's worth."

State Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Kalihi-Pearl Harbor ), one of NASED's most vocal supporters, upped the ante when told of Green's request for a shorter proposal development time frame.

"I would think that you could do it in one month. These guys have been sharpening their pencils for two years as the state fumbled and bumbled through the process. All it is now is plugging in the numbers and figuring out their financing, " Wakai said. "They have to have their drawings of the stadium done by now."

A necessary component Green says a winning proposal for the accompanying private development piece of NASED must address Hawaii's housing shortage.

"My team does support the project, as long as we can combine it with affordable housing, " Green said. "We need to have housing on the front end, and fully integrated.

"As far as I'm concerned, if we're going to do it, do not delay. We have other projects for housing to integrate with it. Housing and sports ... we need to go for it, without delays. Also because they will be economic drivers."

Chace Shigemasa, chair of the Aliamanu /Salt Lake /Foster Village Neighborhood Board, said he supports completing the NASED plan, and has worked closely with the state Department of Accounting and General Services and the Stadium Authority for several years.

"Around $20 million in taxpayer money has been spent for the planning of this project, " he said. "To transfer it at this time to UH doesn't make sense fiscally. Why such a move at this time ? You have to re-create the wheel, and we're about to award a contract."

The stadium is a state project, but coordination with the City and County of Honolulu is needed for various approvals for infrastructure, including roads.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blan ­giardi, who was associated with University of Hawaii football as a player, coach and broadcaster, has a strong interest in the successful building of a new stadium.

"Time is our enemy right now. We need to move things forward. There have been enough delays and it's time for action, " he said. "Football is an economic driver. But they should create something where everyone wins. The value and potential of a great stadium is what it means not only to the competitors, but for an entire community. Let's do it and do it right and do it quickly. A great stadium is a hallmark of great cities, and we are a great city. I could not be more supportive. I say it as the mayor, as a fan and as someone who went through the whole cycle with the original Aloha Stadium."