State officials said the new stadium is expected to be open in time for the University of Hawaii’s 2028 football season.

The state’s plan for a new Aloha Stadium and surrounding entertainment district is shifting to consolidate development.

One contractor will develop both the entertainment district and the stadium, instead of splitting the projects between separate contractors as had originally been planned, Stadium Authority Chair Brennon Morioka said Thursday during the authority’s monthly meeting. 

Under the previous plan, the state would’ve acted as a sort of middleman, using revenue from its ground leases in the entertainment district to help finance the stadium construction. 

Aloha Stadium’s spectator seating has sat empty since its closure was announced in December 2020. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

Gov. Josh Green ditched that plan in March, saying that the estimated extra $400 million cost on top of state funds already set aside was too high.

Morioka explained the financial risk this would’ve entailed.

“Operational revenues from the stadium – whether it’s from sporting events, or even concerts – is not sufficient to pay for both operations and long-term maintenance of the facility over the life of the contract,” he said.

The announcement came after years of debate and more than $20 million already spent on planning for the original concept.

The complexity of two separate construction projects was an additional barrier.

“We’ve had feedback from the industry before that was a bit confused when we had two procurements on how we would actually manage two types of construction onsite at the same time,” said Christine Kinimaka, public works administrator at the state Department of Accounting and General Services.

The $400 million set aside by the Legislature won’t cover the stadium’s entire construction, so whoever takes on the job will have to find funds somewhere else. The contractor would presumably benefit from having more leeway in how it develops the surrounding entertainment district.

“With the original plan, the Stadium Authority would have more control over the two halves: both the stadium side and the real estate side. And now, the developer will have more control but also more risk,” Kinimaka said during a phone interview after the meeting.

The state government would still maintain some power over this development. 

At the county level, zoning laws determine what kind of development is broadly allowable in a given area, and Halawa’s zoning is in flux as it gears up to become a stop along the rail line.

And of course, the contract that the state writes up could include certain non-negotiables, the details of which will become more clear during the summer as the state solicits development teams to determine what’s feasible. One specific item that Green and others have mentioned is the need for housing.

The original 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium was built in 1975 and has sat devoid of spectator events for about three years, owing to its deteriorating infrastructure making the structure unsafe for large masses of people.

The new version will stand in the same location but is expected to be smaller, with 25,000 to 35,000 seats.

The next step is for the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District to conduct what’s called a market sounding, set to occur June 14. On that day, NASED will host a webinar on what its vision is for the eventual contract, with companies in attendance there to give feedback on how realistic the vision is from their standpoint. 

The development teams that were already under consideration are invited to join.

Then, NASED will use a request for qualification to craft a shortlist of potential contractors for an eventual request for proposal. A final contract is projected for about mid-2025, said Kinimaka, with Aloha Stadium projected to open again for events in time for the 2028 University of Hawaii football season. 

The surrounding entertainment district will likely be developed over the next 20 to 30 years, she said, depending on how the contract turns out.

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