Timeline for completing redeveloped Aloha Stadium pushed back a year
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The delays continue for the replacement of Aloha Stadium.
Gov. Josh Green’s administration is now adding another year to the procurement and construction timeline ― to fall 2028 ― as they try to figure out how to pay for a workable stadium.
Appearing on a panel on Insights on PBS Hawaii Thursday Night, state Budget and Finance Director Luis Salaveria said the previously predicted 2027 reopening was not realistic.
“If we were to execute with an eye on the plan and moving forward, put all hands on deck on this particular effort, the intention would be for a stadium to be ready for the 2028 football season,” Salaveria said.
Asked about the prior expectation for the 2027 football season, he replied, “Where it stands right now I think it’s more realistic to think about the 2028 season.”
Six weeks ago, the governor announced he’d refined the plans for both stadium construction and real estate development around it.
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Instead of one development team for the stadium and another for the real estate, as approved by the Stadium Authority, Green said one team would be responsible for both and operate and maintain the stadium for 30 years.
That was the third alternative put forward since last year, when House lawmakers and former Gov. David Ige argued that building the stadium like a traditional government project, without private development partnership, would be more efficient and less risky for taxpayers.
Advocates of private developer partners ― including the governor and state Senate ― said with about $400 million from taxpayers, a private development team could get the stadium built by 2027, and project enough future profits from the real estate development and naming rights to add features to the stadium.
On March 7, the governor told Hawaii News Now, “now you’re getting up into a nice number and finally private investment that should build us a stadium that we’re all proud of.”
He also restated the expectation for completion by the 2027 football season.
Without the private investment, lawmakers and the governor said the taxpayer funding would only be enough for a bare-bones stadium, without a roof, with bleacher seating and limited luxury amenities or flexibility.
State Sen. Glenn Wakai, whose district includes the stadium and who has been an advocate of the public private partnership model, joined the governor that day. He now says he’s disappointed.
“I thought that with the new governor, we would see an accelerated pace of development of that entire area. But in reality, it’s kind of more of the same,” Wakai said.
The finance director said it will take at least to the end of the year to put out requests for developer proposals. The governor has said he needs buy-in from state lawyers, procurement experts, lawmakers and the Stadium Authority.
But House Speaker Scott Saiki said the governor should move ahead with seeking proposals and not wait.
“The governor has the authority to execute the contracting process right now,” Saiki said. “You know, I would suggest that that they just do that.”
The now five-year timeline has some worried that lack of a permanent stadium will continue to harm the UH football team and athletics department ― to the point it loses its Division 1 status.
“At a certain point,” Wakai said, “the NCAA is going to say we’re done with our patience, you’re never going to get this off the ground..”
Salaveria said he believes the NCAA will continue to support the effort.
“What we have been told is as long as there is a commitment by the state to build a facility that will be at a minimum 25,000 (seats)that they will still be able to maintain their D-1 status,” Salaveria said.
On the same PBS program, former Gov. Ben Cayetano argued that the best place for the UH to play football is at the Manoa campus, by expanding the now temporary stadium at the Clarence Ching Athletic Complex.
He and former Govs. John Waihee and Neil Abercrombie say the 98 acres comprising Aloha Stadium and its parking lots would be better used for urgent needs, especially housing.
Regardless, Wakai said, delays are already pushing up the price ― while pushing down public support.
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