State officials are reevaluating how to finance construction of a new Aloha Stadium, which is expected to cost the state $350 million, while also looking at what it would take to fix up the current stadium.
In the meantime, a group of consultants hired to shepherd development of the stadium and the property around it can’t say when the project will be finished.
For more than a decade, the state has been trying to find a way to replace the 45-year-old Aloha Stadium, which requires more than $400 million in repairs.
In 2019, state lawmakers invested $350 million in building a new stadium. Around the same time, the state contracted a consultant team of about a dozen companies lead by Crawford Architects, a Kansas City-based firm with experience building NFL stadiums, to develop the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District, the state’s name for the stadium project and 90-acres surrounding it.
The development has recently been criticized by Gov. David Ige, who suggested that the state make do with the current stadium.
“It’s a very expensive item, and when we look at public schools, health care facilities, the University of Hawaii and other kinds of core infrastructure in our community — it’s hard to say we want to spend $350 million or so on a replacement for a stadium,” Ige said at a Feb. 9 press conference.
On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, state officials said they would look into new ways to finance the new stadium as well as repairs for the current one.
State Comptroller Curt Otaguro said he understands Ige’s concerns with financing the new project.
“If we expend money on the stadium, it means something else will not get done right away,” he said.
Officials are weighing several options moving forward, including having the future stadium contractors assume more risk to spur construction. Otaguro also said the state hasn’t factored in how much money a private developer might be willing to put up to build the new stadium.
He also said officials need to go back to the governor and present studies already completed as well as new studies ongoing that would show what condition Aloha Stadium is in and what it would take to repair it.
Deferred maintenance costs have risen from about $100 million to well over $300 million since 2006, according to data provided by stadium officials. During that time however, the state has not put enough money toward covering those expenses.
The aging Aloha Stadium needs more than $300 million in health and safety repairs and also requires about $121 million in upgrades to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a state study in 2017 found.
Repair costs are also estimated to increase 5%, or more than $20 million, every year the stadium stays standing.
The new stadium appeared on track to open in late 2023 or 2024, but seeing other projects around the state stall has given pause to stadium officials and their team of consultants.
“We know time is of the essence, but we’re not going to make the same mistake of setting expectations and failing to meet them,” Adam Shaw, executive vice president at WT Partnership, one of the consultants, said.
The new stadium would be smaller than the current facility, with about 35,000 seats as opposed to the more than 50,000 in the current building. The new stadium would sit right next to the Honolulu rail line, whose start date has been pushed back to 2033 from an original start date of 2020.
While Shaw didn’t name the rail project or any specific building, he said the consultant team wants to take lessons from other state projects that had trouble getting finished on time. The team is also trying to balance several issues including the rapidly deteriorating Aloha Stadium and finding a future home for the University of Hawaii football team, which plays its home games at the stadium.
“We are committed to a date that is deliverable and the only way we can determine it is achievable is by working with the party we are signing up to do the work,” Shaw said.
The state is still choosing the developer from a list of three candidates. Those are:
A separate developer or group of developers would be selected later to build out the rest of the 90-acre Halawa site with housing, hotel, retail and entertainment options. Those developments around the stadium are expected to begin in 2024 and continue through 2044.
Shaw said that the teams already shortlisted to build the stadium could also apply to develop the real estate around it.
The original target date for the new stadium to open was the 2023 season opener for the UH Rainbow Warrior football team, which might now find itself playing home games in Manoa.
UH expects to spend about $6 million upgrading Ching Field to accommodate about 10,000 spectators. The move may cost the athletics program about $400,000 a year in lost revenue compared to playing at Aloha Stadium.
UH President David Lassner said the plan is to use that facility for at least three years. Besides football, it might also host student activities, like movie nights, Lassner said.
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