How much of the Blaisdell’s redevelopment will taxpayers pay for? The city isn’t sure

Published: Sep. 24, 2019 at 8:48 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city say plans for the projected $772 million redevelopment of the aging Blaisdell Center are moving along, and officials are working to secure a public private partnership for the project.

But with demolition of the 55-year-old venue expected to begin in early 2021, City Council members are frustrated that it’s still unknown how much of the costs taxpayers will have to cover.

“You folks haven’t had that discussion at all,” Councilwoman Kymberly Pine asked Guy Kaulukukui, director of the city’s Department of Enterprise Services, in a hearing Tuesday.

“Because you said you want to make sure it’s affordable, but what is affordable to the mayor?"

Kaulukukui says the city has no intention of paying for the entire project on its own, but says they’ll have a better idea of the city’s share by June of next year, once potential private sector partners submit their proposals.

"The proposals will be evaluated to determine if there's one in there that the city can afford, that is beneficial to the city," said Kaulukukui. "And again, we wouldn't know that until we see them."

The proposed redevelopment of the 22-acre site includes a remodeled arena, larger exhibition hall, more parking, and more open public space.

It will also feature new venues such a 2,500 seat sports pavilion, a performance hall, and commercial space for shops and restaurants.

The city says the current Blaisdell Center costs as much as $15 million a year to operate, but only generates about $6 million in revenue.

Councilmembers questioned how the new center will make money.

"There's very little specifics to anything," said councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi. "When you talk about metrics of how the private partners are going to bring in revenues and untapped revenues, can you please give examples of those metrics?"

"We know what events we bring in, and we know which ones we haven't been able to tap into, and those are the ones we would expect a partner to help us get," Kaulukukui answered.

The city says it hopes to select a partner and proposal by next August.

Officials say the venue won’t be taking any events or booking after December 2020 to prepare for construction, which they say could take up to three years.

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