To folks who work in and around it and motorists who zip past it, the 10-story plastic sheeting that covers sections of Aloha Stadium has come to be known as "the shower curtain" or "the drapes."
The presence of the silver shroud these past six months has given the state’s largest multipurpose athletic facility peeking out from behind it a hint of mystery.
All seemingly in keeping with the lore of a place conceived in controversy, christened with a "curse" and born to a life of extensive — and expensive — repairs.
The $51 million question — what lies behind the "curtains?" — will be answered when the University of Hawaii opens its season Sept. 2 against Southern California on ESPN.
"I think you’ll see great improvement in our facility," said Scott Chan, stadium manager. "The Legislature has been very supportive of what we’re trying to do."
Among changes for the stadium’s 36th year of operation, according to officials:
» a new LED "Aloha Vision" video board
» touches of "Warrior green" paint
» a whole sideline of new seats in the orange level of the mauka side
» repaired steps and new hand railings
» "reduced bounce" pedestrian bridges
» a new roof
» reinforced structural framing
» a new south plaza concession stand
"The health and safety of our guests remains our first concern, so that’s where a lot of the initial work is concentrated," Chan said.
Following the Pro Bowl in February, according to the timetable, will come replacement of the eight-year old FieldTurf and more seats, and the addition of bathrooms, concession stands and elevators, costing an additional $20 million. Those renovations are scheduled to be in place for the 2011 football season.
Construction of luxury suites and sky boxes has been proposed, but no funds have yet been allocated, officials said.
The extensive renovation is aimed at helping the stadium, which was built at a cost of $32 million and originally envisioned to last 75 years, make it into the 2030s — and beyond.
Aloha Stadium, which was first contemplated in a study that begun two months after statehood in 1959, quickly became the object of city vs. state and partisan political bickering. Even the 1971 ground breaking was enveloped in controversy when Halawa-area residents who were to be displaced protested at the ceremony and a curse was placed on the area.
Since then, the stadium has had to deal with aggressive corrosion that, because of salt air, went beyond what was supposed to be a state-of-the-art "rust" finish; hard-to-operate air-moveable grandstand sections; and other issues that spawned a series of lawsuits and repair bills.
Of 10 facilities opened in the same early- to mid-1970s era as Aloha Stadium, only Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, the New Orleans Superdome and Aloha Stadium remain in operation.
A 2008 report for the state Department of Accounting and General Services considered, "… Renovation of Aloha Stadium to be the preferred alternative to construction of a new stadium due to the relatively smaller financial burden this alternative would place on the public."
Based upon 2007 dollars, the cost of a new stadium was projected at nearly $278.3 million versus $156.4 million for renovating and maintaining the current facility. More recent estimates have pegged the cost of building a new facility, complete with luxury suites, at closer to $500 million.
One of the first things fans will notice in the 104-acre facility this season — the new 60 foot by 20 foot "Aloha Vision" video board that replaces the north end zone scoreboard — did not require state money, Chan said.
"It is state-of-the-art," he said, " and one the things we can be proud of is that we didn’t spend any tax dollars on that in tough economic times and (instead) we looked at creative ways to get funding while enhancing the experience for our visiting guests."
It was purchased by Aloha Sports Properties, which has a 10-year contract as the stadium’s exclusive advertising agent and will place advertising around it and in other areas of the facility. Glen Higa, general manager of Aloha Sports, declined to reveal the cost, but Chan said "it is close to a million dollars."
The green the state is putting into the stadium includes paint on portions of roof, beams and walls that formerly were brown. The green was selected, according to Russ K. Saito, state comptroller and DAGS director, because of its impact on the surroundings, eye appeal and flexibility in meeting current and future color schemes. In addition, Saito said, "some of us are UH graduates."
Scaffolding and "curtains" like those currently in the north end zone to accommodate sand blasting, paint chipping, painting and maintenance, will remain through the season for reasons of cost and speed, Chan said.
"Unfortunately, you’ll continue to see some scaffolding (and curtains)," Chan said. "There was no way around that. I was not willing to pay (an additional) $3 million for mobilizing and demobilizing during that period. I think we have to learn to live with some of that."
Saito said roof replacement, which originally was scheduled to be done in four phases, has been reduced to three phases, which saves some money.
The installation of cables to strengthen the eight pedestrian bridges and all but eliminate bouncing will make it less likely the stadium will be moved back into a baseball configuration, officials said. Already, cost, corrosion and safety issues have made that a long shot.
Chan said the stadium hopes to assist UH in opening new revenue options with a "VIP seating section" in the dugout area and the installation of flat-screen TVs in sections of the north loge areas. "We’re trying to make this a gradual thing than can help create revenue for the university," he said.