HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly 20 years after Hawaii's own Brook Lee won the Miss Universe pageant, the former queen has played a crucial role in bringing the contest back to the islands, but it's not going to happen this year.
Plans to hold the event in November at the Blaisdell Arena have fallen apart because pageant officials say the facility is not structurally sound.
"All we know is they said the rigging was inadequate, that's to hoist things and put screens up, as I understand it," said Rick Fried, Hawaii Tourism Authority Board chairman.
Fried said the City and HTA were first contacted by Miss Universe representatives in May.
He was surprised to learn that the pageant's key rigger was only in Hawaii this past Monday to inspect the Blaisdell.
On Wednesday, the president of the Miss Universe Organization broke the news via email to HTA, saying she was disappointed that the event could no longer be held in Hawaii.
Though there was no official contract to set things in stone, Fried's hopes were high. "It was disappointing because we were kind of thinking it was going to happen," he said.
City Enterprise Services Director Guy Kaulukukui said in recent days, it was determined by the pageant that the arena's structural capacity for suspending overhead equipment above the stage area was insufficient for the show's needs.
But the City contends the Blaisdell is safe and in a statement emailed to Hawaii News Now on Friday, the "arena weight capacity has not been a limiting factor for shows staged in that venue over recent years, for example Bruno Mars, WWE, Diana Ross, Janet Jackson, Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey and more."
The city already blocked out two weeks in November for pageant use. Now it will have to fill that gap.
"What better place to have it than in gorgeous islands, beautiful weather, beautiful culture and people," said Luana Alapa, director of Mrs. Hawaii America Pageant. "It's just sad we don't have the facilities to accommodate that. Hawaii will miss out in millions of dollars."
Blaisdell concerns come just six months after the City released a new master plan calling for renovation of the arena and concert hall and replacing the 60,000 square-foot exhibition hall.
It comes with a hefty price tag, though -- about $400 to $500 million.
The last time Hawaii hosted the Miss Universe contest was in 1998 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
That venue was ruled out this year because Fried said it was already booked up for November.
Miss Universe officials did not respond to our request for comment on Friday.