Editorial: Teamwork needed for new stadium
For much of Aloha Stadium’s 44-year history, when the facility has not been in use for an event, other economic activity on the 98-acre Halawa site has been negligible.
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For much of Aloha Stadium’s 44-year history, when the facility has not been in use for an event, other economic activity on the 98-acre Halawa site has been negligible. House Bill 1586, which was supported by state lawmakers and is now on Gov. David Ige’s desk, could change that by establishing a “stadium development district” on the state-owned land.
The measure holds exciting potential to help transform the vastly underutilized area into a lively and lucrative hub of commercial and residential activity.
Under the bill, the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), which is overseeing Kakaako’s ongoing makeover as a high-rise-centered work-live-play neighborhood, would serve as the stadium site’s development arm. That seems a sensible assignment as the state agency has experience in public-private ventures.
HCDA’s chances for forging successful ventures at Halawa will hinge on further honing public-private partnership expertise, and on working efficiently and effectively in tandem with the facility’s management arm, Aloha Stadium Authority, and with Honolulu Hale. Both already have in hand in proposals tied to the area’s future.
The Stadium Authority has long been leading the charge to construct a new stadium rather than opt for a pricey repair route, which includes a long list of deferred maintenance and improvements needed to comply with the American with Disabilities Act.
A Stadium Authority report two years ago described the 50,000-seat venue as a “potential danger to public health and safety” and “financial burden.” The panel has pitched an attractive — although also pricey — replacement vision: a U-shaped 30,000- to 35,000-seat facility. The current price tag for the scaled-down arena: $350 million.
In an artist’s rendering, the facility opens at one end to a grass berm surrounded by restaurants, shops and offices as well as housing. The site’s overlap with Honolulu’s transit-oriented development (TOD) bolsters a valid argument that much of this housing should be reserved for tenants and buyers representing moderate- and low-income levels.
A rail station is expected to be constructed near the stadium; and the first segment of the 20-mile elevated transit line — East Kapolei to the stadium — is slated to open in late 2020. Optimistically.
Meanwhile, the “Halawa Area TOD” master plan outlines general development patterns, preservation and creation of public view corridors, proposed zoning, and pinpoints necessary infrastructure. In testimony on HB 1586, Honolulu Hale said that plan was developed in “close cooperation” with the Stadium Authority, landowners, key state departments, military representatives and the public.
If the bill secures the governor’s signature — as it should — HCDA’s first priority should be to thoroughly evaluate Stadium Authority and city strategies to date, to avoid duplicating efforts and wasting of taxpayer money in the process ahead.
The measure also calls for the state to issue $150 million in reimbursable general obligation bonds, $150 million in general obligation bonds and $50 million in general revenue for the building of a new stadium.
The low level of economic activity on the overall site has been due largely to long-standing restrictions on land use. In the late 1960s, the Interior Department provided 56 acres to the city, and the city then conveyed the property along with more land to the state. As conditions for the transfers, the federal agency and the city attached restrictions mandating only recreational or park use.
Two years ago, local federal agencies agreed to lift the restrictions, clearing the way for the mixed-use ideas. Moving forward, all stakeholders must stress careful planning and watchdog monitoring of taxpayer dollars as this gathering place transforms.