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With cases rising, ‘Bows to open football, volleyball seasons without fans

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 10:59 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 20, 2021 at 2:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Fans of the Rainbow Warrior football team will have to wait a little longer to see the University of Hawaii’s multi-million dollar transformation of the T.C. Ching Athletics Complex up close.

School and city officials announced Friday that fans would not be allowed to attend University of Hawaii sporting events to begin the fall sports season.

UH Mānoa students like Colvin Ravenscraft said being in the stands is a big part of the college and was disappointed after hearing the new restrictions.

“But it’s just kind of a shame, I mean, this is the first time hearing of that,” said Ravenscraft. “And I was really looking forward to checking out the new stadium and watching him play this year.”

The decision applies to both indoor sports, held in venues like the Stan Sheriff Center, and outdoor sports, like football and women’s soccer, which plays at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium. The possibility of hosting fans was to be re-evaluated at a later date, the school said.

“I’m frankly very surprised, bordering on shocked. I think this is maybe overly restrictive,” said Bobby Curran of ESPN Honolulu. “I mean, this was outdoors, it has mandatory vaccines and they were going to require masks.”

“I think it’s kind of ridiculous because like, most of the most students are vaccinated,” said Matthew Pender, a senior at UH Mānoa.

A spokesperson for the Mountain West Conference, where the Rainbow Warriors compete in football, said Friday that no other school in the league had announced plans to prevent fans from attending home games. It’s believed that Hawaii ― at least for the time being ― is the only FBS school in the country to enact such a restriction.

“We are disappointed because we were looking forward to playing in front of our fans again,” UH Mānoa Athletics Director David Matlin said. “However we understand the decision was made in the best interest of public safety and can only hope the restrictions will be lifted when the time is right.”

A spokesperson for the University of Hawaii said Friday said it was City and County of Honolulu officials who notified school leadership that fans would not be allowed at games, citing surging coronavirus case counts and the strain COVID-19 is putting on local hospitals.

The state Department of Health reported 845 new cases on Friday, including 548 on Oahu, and nearly 9,000 cases have been reported statewide over the last 14 days.

In a statement, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said, “It is no secret I have been a lifelong supporter of UH athletics, and its football program especially. So it is with great disappointment and regret to decide not to allow spectators in the stands to start the upcoming fall season for all sports. However, it is a fluid situation and we will continue to evaluate based on current conditions and impacts in the healthcare community. All is not lost for the fall sports season, but we are urging people to get vaccinated now.”

“But I understand why because COVID has gotten so bad, like recently here with everything,’ said Hunter Higgins, a sophomore at UH Mānoa. “So there’s a reason why, but it’s a bummer.”

It will be the second consecutive season that University of Hawaii athletes play at home without fan support ― at least to start the season. And the decision is especially disappointing to school officials who have helped oversee the renovations to the Ching Athletics Complex, which expanded into a roughly 9,000-seat venue over the summer to serve as the ‘Bows temporary home while the future of Aloha Stadium and its eventual replacement remain in flux.

The total scope of the project is estimated to cost just more than $8 million, with the UH Foundation starting a fundraising campaign in April to help offset the cost. The Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation also donated $1.5 million.

The decision is another blow to the athletic departments’ tight financial situation as well as its vendors.

“The businesses benefit restaurants, etc., from fans coming out of the stadium or the arena and now they’re not going to have any of that,’ said Curran.

School officials say a ticket refund policy will be forthcoming, and that season ticket holders who are affected by the county’s decision will be notified of their options soon.

Hours later, Hawaii Pacific University also made a similar announcement that fans would not be able to attend any games until further notice. The decision affects Friday’s women’s soccer game at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium and next weekend’s volleyball game at The Shark Tank.

Anyone who was planning to attend Friday’s game can now watch it online for free.

This story will be updated.

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