Plans to modernize Blaisdell Center could cost upwards of $500M

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Neal Blaisdell Center was known as the Honolulu International Center, or HIC, when it opened back in 1964. City officials believe its time to bring the facility into the 21st century.

"It's getting old. She's showing her age," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. "We don't want to go the way of the stadium or the airport."

City officials are proposing several major improvements to the center, including completely replacing the 60,000 square-foot exhibition hall, which is easily packed by trade shows and other events.

"The exhibition hall we envision for the future is much bigger, about a third bigger," said Guy Kaulukukui, director of the city's Department of Enterprise Services, which oversees the Blaisdell Center.  "We're looking at about 95,000 square feet, so that our largest exhibitions can be held under the same roof."

There are also plans to add new performance spaces and a sports facility, while the arena and concert hall will get major upgrades. The city also wants to double the amount of parking to 3,000 spaces that would be in two new parking facilities. And there's a possibility that Victoria Street, mauka of the center, could be extended through the current parking lot to make it easier to enter and leave the area.

The city looked at several ideas presented Thursday night, and will hold a final public workshop in November. He said the planning and design could begin in the middle of next year, with construction beginning in 2019.

However, some are concerned about the price tag -- $400 million to $500 million, which the city says would be financed through bonds.

"I think we need to take care of the infrastructure before doing something that's nice, that would be nice to have done now but can wait a few years," said downtown resident Lynne Matusow.

Caldwell disagrees.

"This is one of the key functions the city provides for people on this island," he said. "It's where we gather, and we need to improve on this infrastructure, too."

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