UH athletics complex opens 2 years late; cost 60% more than first estimate

UH athletics complex opens 2 years late; cost 60% more than first estimate

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The new athletics complex at the University of Hawaii at Manoa is opening two years late and cost about 60 percent more than original estimates, partly because of higher construction bids in the improving economy.

The Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex houses offices, locker rooms and a meeting room for UH women's soccer, cross country, track and field and sand volleyball.

The Ching foundation, named for the late developer and philanthropist, donated $5 million to UH, which was supposed to cover half the expected $10 million cost.

But because of the recovering economy, construction companies were charging more money so the bids came in much higher than expected: the lowest at $13.8 million.

"The thing that you always watch out for in construction projects is that the longer a project goes, the more it costs, and unfortunately, that happens over time,” said Ben Jay, the former UH athletics director. “And that happens in every construction project, so you try to keep it down as quickly as you can in order to keep those costs at bay."

The project was under construction during Jay's entire two-and-a-half year tenure as UH AD.

It was supposed to be completed in 2013, but is now two years late, and it's still not fully finished.

The NCAA threatened to withhold certification of the UH athletic program a year ago unless the first floor women's sports facilities were completed by the end of January 2014, which they were.

"This was a gender equity issue in terms of needing it for women's sports here at the University of Hawaii. And we wanted to make sure that we had a great home for both our track teams, our cross country teams, our women's soccer and now our sand bows, the sand volleyball team," Jay said.

As other costs rose, including $1 million for new sewer and water lines, UH cut out the air conditioning planned for the second and third floors of the Ching complex, so press boxes, the announcer's booth and some meeting rooms have no AC.

"There were some things that were taken out in order to save some costs. But we're looking at right now, making sure we get this building right in the end," Jay said.

The $16.2 million final cost includes desks, chairs, tables and a public address system that still have to be installed in a meeting room, the press box and announcer's booth. So it's still not finished.

And there's no scoreboard. That's coming in a second phase of improvements.

"It's been a long time coming but what we have here now is the crown jewel of the athletic complex here," said Interim UH Manoa Chancellor Robert Bly-Vroman at dedication ceremonies Friday morning.

UH Manoa Junior Katie Spieler, a sand volleyball player, said she's grateful for new sand volleyball practice courts on the campus so the team doesn't have to travel to Waikiki early each morning for practice before class.

"We would wake up at 5:30 and haul all our volleyballs and nets down to Queen's Beach in Waikiki,” Spieler told the dedication ceremony.

Copyright 2015 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.