City kicks off $43M renovation of aging Blaisdell campus

Since 1964, the Blaisdell has hosted the biggest names in showbiz, but over the years, operating the facility has come with workarounds.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 5:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Major changes are on the way to one of Hawaii’s premier entertainment facilities.

The city is about to embark on a $43 million renovation project of the Neal Blaisdell campus, which includes the arena, exhibition center, and concert hall.

Since 1964, the Blaisdell has hosted some of the biggest names in show business.

But as the facility has aged, operating it has become more of a challenge.

Take the doors for example.

“They’re a little creaky, they don’t work very well and for something like, the Song Contest, we have to baffle them with carpet,” said Blaisdell Center events and services Administrator Mary Lewis.

Lewis and city officials provided a breakdown Wednesday of the renovation set to begin at the center.

It’s a complete makeover that includes changes to electrical infrastructure, exhibition hall suites, plumbing, air conditioning, and backstage accommodations.

Some work is already underway, but parts of the campus will soon be shut down:

  • The arena will be closed from May to November;
  • The exhibition hall from June to August;
  • and the concert hall will close its doors for a year on July 1.

Details and updates on closures can be found by clicking here.

Scheduled events such as graduations have been located to other sites, including the Waikiki Shell.

“We’ve been very lucky to work with general contractors that are able to follow our direction,” Lewis explained. “So it might take a little bit longer, but by closing down the buildings and going flat out, we’ll be able to do it faster.”

And the 1960s-era structure comes with its own unique hurdles.

“The fire protection has been the biggest challenge because it’s the original system and you can’t add anything to it anymore and it’s getting very hard to find replacement parts,” said John Condrey, architect with the city’s Department of Design and Construction.

“Electrical is another big challenge. Architecturally, we can repair structure and we can take care of those things.”