Stephen Tsai: Stalled Aloha Stadium issue needs to get out of neutral

Dec. 6—In Hawaii, it has been noted, directions often are given using landmarks that no longer exist.

In Hawaii, it has been noted, directions often are given using landmarks that no longer exist.

Maple Garden ? It's across the street from the old Honolulu Stadium.

The Interstate Building ? That used to be the Civic Auditorium.

Swap meet ? That's where ... oh, wait, Aloha Stadium is still there.

A bigger mystery than why Crocs are more popular than ever is how the heck Aloha Stadium is still standing. It's old and rusty, like the rake forgotten in the back yard, and getting older and rustier, but it is just as it was when it was self-condemned two years ago.

It was nearly two years ago—Dec. 17, 2020—when the Aloha Stadium Authority issued a statement that it could no longer afford to maintain operations to keep the Halawa facility safe and running for spectator-attended events. The action came three weeks after the University of Hawaii football team completed the 2020 season without fans in the stands. A month later, the final Hula Bowl was played at Aloha Stadium, also without fans, but—and officials meant it—that would be the last event.

And, technically, there would be no spectator events inside the stadium. But outside of it, which always appeared the more profitable side, the swap-meeters kept swapping and meeting and, lately, the "Show Aloha Land—Holiday Wonderland " is in full glory.

While there is money allocated for a replacement stadium pending resolution of which entity is in charge, the structure remains a centerpiece. It would be as if Fate Yanagi dumps you because she needs space, and then you keep running into her every ... single ... day. For football fans and concert-goers craving a new facility, Aloha Stadium is their Fate.

Sure, we understand the old governor had a plan and then a new plan and then a new-new plan. That was a source of frustration for architects, engineers and inspectors who spent a year creating blueprints. While it can be irraz, it should not be a deterrent to pressing forward. For instance, there was a UH offensive coordinator who filled a board with innovative trick plays. He did not hold back. If he used a couple of those plays one week, he would create new plays the following week. The stadium architects also should literally go back to the drawing board.

Right now, the problem is optics. With relatively the same starting line, San Diego State built a stadium. San Jose State has $70 million earmarked for football offices, a performance center, luxury boxes and stands at CEFCU Stadium. They tore out the seats on the side that faces the television cameras. The message was this : You need to tear down the old structure to build a new one. There always will be doubts about the construction of a replacement facility until there is some effort—any effort—to raze Aloha Stadium.

What's more, UH is set to begin expansion on the on-campus Ching Complex on Jan. 4. Last year, a state senator complained that UH did not go through the proper—and lengthy—steps of retrofitting the Ching Complex to a 9, 300-seat facility for Rainbow Warrior home football games. By waiting, UH officials countered, the field would not be ready in time for the 2021 season. Now UH is expanding Ching's capacity and transforming the two-level grass fields into an area for track meets and soccer matches.

It says a lot about the gridlock in Halawa when UH is driving toward the second phase while the Aloha Stadium project remains in neutral.