Exclusive: UH rec center project now 14 months behind schedule

Published: Jan. 6, 2014 at 10:46 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2014 at 11:23 PM HST
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MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A recreation center project being built at the University of Hawaii's flagship Manoa campus has suffered further delays and is now expected to be completed one year and two months late, Hawaii News Now learned Monday.

The $33 million project is being funded in part by $175 campus center operation and recreation fees that UH Manoa charges each student.

When Hawaii News Now first revealed problems with the project in mid July, the building was running ten months behind schedule.

One of the problems: a window subcontractor went bankrupt and had to be replaced.

Those initial delays pushed the finish date to last October. The project was then delayed until November, then to this month.

But Monday, a UH spokeswoman said the latest completion estimate is late February, a year and two months later than the original completion date of December 2012.

That's frustrating for UH junior Maverick Matsuoka, who's been paying those fees for nearly three years.

"It just feels like I'm paying for nothing.  I'm paying for future students, I don't get to use it myself, so, it's kind of pointless for me," said Matsuoka, a mechanical engineering student from Wailuku on Maui.

The new facility will include a multi-purpose gym, locker rooms, showers, an indoor jogging track, fitness center and other facilities for intramural and recreational sports.

The delays of more than a year have meant much longer inconveniences for students, faculty and staff, who've had to detour around the construction area at the already-busy campus center.  It's the first major addition to the center since it was built 40 years ago.

During construction, the UH bookstore had to surrender more than one-third of its space for longer than two years.  Monday, book store employees are just re-settling into the completed space that finally re-opened in late November.

"Since I started UH Manoa, I've never seen the bookstore without construction in it," said Haley Calasa, a UH junior from Haiku, Maui.  "So it was pretty exciting when they opened it up."

"It comes down to the same thing.  Management.  Who's in charge?" asked State Sen. Sam Slom (R- Kahala, Hawaii Kai), the Senate minority leader.   "Who's overseeing what's going on?  Why would we have this kind of delay since December 2012?"

A spokesman for Mitsunaga and Associates, the project's construction management consultant, said UH informed the company last summer it didn't have money left to pay them so UH had to let them go.

That means UH took the unusual step of replacing a consultant with in-house management of the troubled project, with a significant amount of the job still incomplete.

"It's pretty frustrating that I'm paying for something that I don't even get to use and I might not even get to use before I graduate next year," said Calasa, the UH junior who's an English major. "So I hope that they finish it soon."

A UH spokeswoman said the unversity anticipates remaining within its construction budget of $33.9 million for the project, even with the delays and changes.

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