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Aloha Stadium not quite shut down, will ‘entertain’ new events with added expenses

Updated: Dec. 18, 2020 at 5:23 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In somewhat of a reversal, the Aloha Stadium Authority announced late Thursday that it would “entertain events,” but that additional expenses would be put upon licensees who want to use the facility.

The Authority had announced earlier Thursday that it was shutting down all new operations at the facility for indefinite period of time due to maintenance issues and financial losses resultant of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a statement emailed to Hawaii News Now late Thursday afternoon, the stadium’s sales and marketing specialist, Samantha Spain, said, “Events already in planning with confirmed dates, such as the Hula Bowl, Great Aloha Run, and high school graduations, are being discussed for 2021, and announcements will be forthcoming.”

However, it remains unclear whether any future University of Hawaii football games will be played at the facility.

The closure could not only devastate UH football revenue, but could impact other sports, since the school’s athletic department relies on revenue from football to help fund its athletic programs.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, University of Hawaii athletics director David Matlin said the school was ‘beyond disappointed’ in the Stadium Authority’s announcement and acknowledged that the school would not be playing football at Aloha Stadium in 2021.

“We must now take responsibility ourselves to find a suitable venue for our Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii’s football team, to play in front of our loyal fans beginning in 2021,” Matlin said.

The stadium has been grappling with a loss in revenue due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In addition to the inability to hold any spectator events since March, the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet ― a driver of significant revenue ― was also canceled temporarily because of COVID-19.

A press release announcing the closure said the temporary shut down was “being adopted in response to COVID-19 safety restrictions that have severely limited revenue generation opportunities.”

However, Spain said in a later email that “We will entertain any client that can function within the restrictions and constraints.”

“Although there is a lot of opportunity, we still see that our revenues will be far lower than our expenses, extended out even into 2024,” said Ryan Andrews, the deputy manager at Aloha Stadium, during a public Aloha Stadium Authority meeting on Thursday morning. “We’re looking at a number of years where our revenues are not going to meet our expense levels.”

Ross Yamasaki, the Chair of the Stadium Authority, said Thursday that the facility had been expending reserve funds to maintain operations since March, when most coronavirus restrictions went into place.

Now, roughly nine months later, the stadium has seemingly unsurmountable financial issue on two separate fronts: in addition to not being able to pay events or maintenance staff, the lack of revenue is impacting the stadium’s ability to stay on top of repairs, sources said.

For years, the stadium has been dealing with corrosion issues. A 2018 structural and safety evaluation report for the facility said that while the venue was safe, it was deteriorating at an increasing rate and that proactive maintenance and repair work are needed.

“It is our hope that we can find a long-term solution but for now, must make these changes to reduce expenses and generate revenue through activities in the parking lot and events that have already been booked,” said Yamasaki.

There are myriad events in the stadium’s future that are sure to be affected outside of University of Hawaii athletics.

The Hawaii Bowl, which was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, will likely not be able to stage a game at Aloha Stadium in 2021.

High school athletic organizations like the ILH are not expected to be able to use the stadium for competition for the duration of the shutdown, either.

“We’ve hit a point where we need to make some big decisions about our operational future because we are unable to meet our revenue levels,” said Andrews.

This story will be updated.

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