Aloha Stadium Should Be Replaced By Aloha Homes - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

John Kawamoto

John Kawamoto is a member of Faith Action for Community Equity and a former legislative analyst.


Aloha Stadium was built in 1975 for University of Hawaii football, but in December, 2020 the Aloha Stadium Authority announced that the stadium would be shut down until a new stadium was built. UH football then planned to relocate temporarily to a retrofitted Ching Athletic Complex on the UH Manoa campus. However, it now looks more and more like football’s relocation to UH will be permanent.

Initially, the retrofitting plan for Ching Athletic Complex was to rent stadium bleachers, based on the assumption that they would be used for only a few years. However, UH has now purchased the bleachers, which will seat 9,000 spectators. The seating will be doubled next year, then expanded further.  

The on-campus stadium not only allows football to be played, but it is a way to solve a persistent financial problem that UH had with the Aloha Stadium Authority: UH wanted more of the revenue from football games, but the authority has not allowed it. The on-campus stadium enables UH to keep all the revenue.

The on-campus stadium doesn’t have to be large because UH football is not nearly as popular as it was decades ago. UH football revenues have declined so much that the swap meet has raised more revenue for the stadium than football in recent years. 

Note that the swap meet doesn’t need a stadium. All it needs is a large open space.

Aloha Stadium aerial Aiea .
Aloha Stadium sits on 100 acres — land, the author argues, that should be given over to the creation of a dense, mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood that offers affordable housing. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

The seating of the on-campus stadium, when fully built, will come very close to accommodating the average attendance at UH football home games in the six years before the pandemic.

The Legislature seems reluctant to fund the new Aloha Stadium. In 2019 the Legislature appropriated $350 million to cover the estimated costs of building a new stadium. In 2021 the Legislature took away more than half of that money, leaving only $170 million. Meanwhile, costs have increased to an estimated $423 million, so there’s a $253 million shortfall.

The hope is that revenues will be generated from development on the adjacent portion of the state land that is not needed for the stadium and that this can cover the shortfall. Similar projects in other cities, however, have failed. A project in Louisville, Kentucky, for example, also consisted of a stadium and an adjacent development that was supposed to generate revenue. The project started off with a $238 million price tag, but it turned into a boondoggle that could cost taxpayers $900 million in future debt.  

The pandemic has made it much more difficult to find developers who are willing to advance $253 million just for the opportunity to develop the state land adjacent to the new Aloha Stadium site. 

Furthermore, the COVID-19 infection rate has skyrocketed due to the delta variant. We can’t predict with any degree of confidence how the pandemic will play itself out. We don’t know what kinds of restrictions will be placed on outdoor gatherings, or how long those restrictions will last. 

These uncertainties affect the viability of a new stadium. Prudence dictates that the development of the new Aloha Stadium be put on hold at least until the pandemic is under control. Meanwhile, the state land adjacent to the stadium site should be used to build affordable housing.  

The need for affordable housing in Hawaii is much greater than the need for a new stadium. A study by the Aloha United Way shows that more than half of Hawaii’s households do not have enough income to pay for all of the necessities of living. People must make hard decisions about whether to cut back on food, health care or other necessities.  

Housing is typically the biggest item in a household’s budget, and it has been estimated that Hawaii needs about 50,000 affordable housing units. The state land adjacent to the stadium site presents an opportunity to build tens of thousands of modest affordable housing units for the people of Hawaii.  

The Aloha Homes model is based on the Singaporean housing model, in which the government builds housing units that it leases for 99 years. David Phan

This affordable housing should be built as part of a dense, mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood that is designed to minimize its impact on the environment and reduce the use of fossil fuel. The use of personal vehicles can be minimized because a rail station is on the site. Restaurants, shops and other urban amenities can be built within walking distance of homes. Infrastructure would be minimized because the development is not spread out.

A project of this magnitude is needed because the need for affordable housing keeps increasing. Housing prices have steadily increased for decades, while wages have stagnated. Existing efforts to build affordable housing are not enough to cover even the yearly increase in the need for affordable housing.  

We need big ideas for building affordable housing. A study by the Hawaii Appleseed Center and the Hawaii Budget and Policy Center analyzed the Aloha Homes model proposed by state Sen. Stanley Chang, which is designed to build lots of housing on state land. The proposal has many worthy features, and the study shows that modest homes can be built on state land and sold at prices that are affordable to Hawaii’s working families.

The new Aloha Stadium should be put on pause until we emerge from the pandemic. Meanwhile, the state land adjacent to the stadium site should be seriously considered for the implementation of the Aloha Homes model because it is feasible, and because it can improve the lives of so many people.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.


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About the Author

John Kawamoto

John Kawamoto is a member of Faith Action for Community Equity and a former legislative analyst.


Latest Comments (0)

If there is other state land available, we should use that instead because having a stadium that can grow in size as the city and county grows in population is important. We want to have a facility that can meet the potential higher demand for event seating in the future. I recommended to the stadium authority a couple of years ago to build a stadium with both end zones empty of seating so that they would be available to fill in if the demand rose. Also, I suggested that an efficient bus system complementing rail could be developed to accommodate potentially larger crowds.As far as tailgating is concerned, I wonder if places that have unused parking on Saturdays could be used where people would pay to use them and then take a bus or shuttle to the stadium.

MusicSports · 1 year ago

Nice site for a retirement village. Put in a bunch of 2 story townhomes, anchored by a taller 5-6 story building on each side with plenty parking!

Richard · 1 year ago

Considering the burden on Hawaii's Taxpayer for Rail Transit, Highest Price for Homes, Cost of living, & the Lost of many Small businesses ,because of the Pandemic, Why not carve out that space for affordable housing for our median, and low income citizens.After All, don't we need to provide an opportunity 1st to our local community to benefit from All the local taxes they pay into our system?They are here for the long run and need a break from a government system that continues to provide No Remedy or Relief for them."Housing Security is Paramount for Our Community!"

PSpects · 1 year ago

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