After months of debate, process of picking Aloha Stadium developer back on track

They're pleading with the community for help.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 5:34 PM HST|Updated: May. 25, 2023 at 11:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The process to pick a new developer for Aloha Stadium and entertainment district is back on track again after months of debate and confusion and $26 million spent on the first plan.

Planning consultants and architects generated lots of really nice renderings, but now the plan for the stadium is a lot less ambitious ― a roofless, 25,000 seats.

And the chair of the Aloha Stadium Authority, Brennon Morioka, reminded the board that $400 million expected from the Legislature approved by lawmakers isn’t enough to build even that.

“To build what we will be asking for, at a minimum of 25,000 seats, it is going to cost more than what we anticipate to have available,” Morioka said, at a meeting Thursday.

Green announces new direction for Aloha Stadium, surrounding entertainment district

Board vice Chair Eric Fujimoto asked: “How confident are we that we can deliver a stadium that we can all be proud of at a given time?” “Good question,” Morioka replied.

To find the answer the Authority will spend the next few months surveying the development community to learn what’s possible.

Member John Fink supports the process.

“To make sure we are not just a bunch of people sitting in a room putting a plan together and then we put it out and then the players who we believe would be interested look at us and go ‘what are you guys crazy?’” Fink said.

“That would be foolish to do that.”

The goal is to get a developer on board by mid-2025 and willing to put their own money into the stadium ― in return for development rights on the adjacent 70 acres. One of the questions over the next few months will be how many of those acres need to be in the first increment to make it pencil out for developers.

Gov. Josh Green had put a hold on the procurement process when he took office in order to do a financial review.

His administration found that the original plan, which involved hiring two developers and keeping operation of the stadium in the hands of the Authority, had too much risk to taxpayers.

Under the new process, a single development team will build, operate and maintain the stadium with the ability to use proceeds from commercial and residential development of the Halawa site to subsidize the stadium’s construction and long-term needs, keeping taxpayers off the hook.

“I’m hoping it will be more than 25,000 seats and whoever wins the bid to do it puts a lot of their own money in, because it’s a good opportunity,” the governor said. “Also naming rights will go to the stadium and that will help too.” The hope is that the new stadium will open in Fall of 2028.

As for the $26 million spent up to now, Morioka told members that the majority of the work product ― including the environmental, engineering and planning studies ― is still valid.

“I just wanted to make that clear to you guys that just because we’re are terminating the old procurements and starting a new one that we are starting from scratch that is not the case,” Morioka said.

Both Morioka and Fink said they are confident because this is the first time all agencies of government are in agreement.

“I’m very excited about that,” Fink said. “Because now we have a plan of action, I think, that’s going to work out for all the stakeholders.”

Restarting the procurement process means that bidders that were qualified in the first process must compete again, and others may come in.

The initial scoping of industry interest and ideas will take 4 to 6 months, followed by a period where developers seek to be qualified to compete with their best proposals, including detailed plans and timelines.

It’s not until those proposals are opened that the public will know the size of the stadium and the nature of the development surrounding it.