Both major gubernatorial candidates say settling questions about Aloha Stadium as a home for the University of Hawaii will be key to the Warriors’ future and differed over the need for a sports commission to help promote the industry.
In meetings with the Star-Advertiser editorial board, Neil Abercrombie and James "Duke" Aiona each pledged support for UH but said where the Warriors’ play their games will be central to the program’s viability.
"My priorities would be to try to support (athletic director) Jim Donovan and the decisions that are made in regard to this and settle the question of the stadium," Aiona said.
Abercrombie said, "I really believe that … if we’re going to have a Division I team, the university should be in charge of the stadium. And whether the stadium stays there (in Halawa) or we do something else — that has to be settled."
Aiona said, "I’ve talked to Jim (Donovan), and he doesn’t quite agree with my ideas when it comes to the stadium, (but) I really believe unless the stadium we’re going to have is some kind of private partnership with some entity, I can’t see spending the kind of money just to have, maybe, the Pro Bowl and UH games there.
"I told (Donovan), why don’t you guys build an on-campus stadium and you can build your program that way?"
Abercrombie said he favors a commitment to Division I.
"I think we have to make a decision as a state about what we want to do about that. Part of this has to do with what the regents decide and what Donovan decides and recommends," Abercrombie said. "They’re going to have to think really seriously that if we’re going to stay Division I, how are we going to do that? There’s gotta be a game plan and it has gotta go before the public."
Aiona said he favors the establishment of a "totally independent sports commission" to assist sports across the board in the state.
He said, "I love sports and will do everything I can to elevate it to the next level, but the sports commission is, to me, is the key right now in elevating Hawaii as well as our youth sports and everything else that goes around it."
Abercrombie blasted Aiona’s suggestion of a commission, saying, "That’s great. What we need is a sports commission. Really? OK, good luck. Can we run it the same thing we’re going through with the school board. Can you imagine a sports commission? Can you imagine what that would turn into? Oh my, we have enough trouble as it is."