HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Aloha Stadium Authority announced on Thursday the indefinite shut down of all new operations at the facility, leaving the University of Hawaii football team ― Aloha Stadium’s marquee tenant ― temporarily homeless.
In a statement shortly after the stadium’s announcement, University of Hawaii athletics director David Matlin confirmed that the Rainbow Warriors would not be playing football at the venue in 2021, saying that the school was ‘beyond disappointed’ in the decision.
“Aloha Stadium has such a storied history and carries so many memories for our football program and generations of Hawaii families.” Matlin said in the statement.
“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,” he added.
The Rainbow Warriors have called the ‘Metal Mecca’ home for nearly a half century. University President David Lassner called the stadium shutdown ‘of grave concern.’
Theoretically, the team could play all of its games on the road, though the cost of playing an entire slate of games away from Aloha Stadium would almost certainly be prohibitively expensive.
It could also play games at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletic Complex on the school’s lower campus, which features a synthetic turf field that the football program sometimes uses to hold practices.
In a legislative hearing Thursday morning, Lassner told lawmakers: “We’re looking at our campus facilities first.”
State Sen. Glenn Wakai said the university will have to make some very difficult decisions in the coming months.
“If I were at the table, I would suggest taking some of these games to the neighbor islands,” he said.
Wakai called it a unique opportunity to cultivate Hawaii’s fan base, and it’s one that has been done before.
In 2001 the Warriors held their season opener at Maui’s War Memorial Stadium. But critics say that idea might not be as simple as it seems, arguing that opponents could object to playing if the field is not up to Division I standards.
Wakai believes going on the road for the entire season should be a last resort.
“Hawaii’s small fan base would be even smaller,” he said. “You can’t just disappear three years and reappear and say hi come fill up my new stadium.”
In recent years UH football has struggled to attract a crowd. Over the past decade, attendance has dropped more than 50 percent.
Some believe that smaller venues will mean even less revenue. It’s money other UH sports depend on.
In the meantime, the current Rainbow Warriors are preparing for their trip to the New Mexico Bowl to face Houston on Christmas Eve — to be nationally televised on ESPN.