Ferd Lewis: Sellout crowd gives Aloha Stadium planners food for thought
What the turnout for the Cowboys’ 14-10 victory over the Rams gave us was additional food for thought.
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Can nearly 45,000 spectators be wrong?
That was the approximate turnstile figure (only the ticket distribution of 49,936 was announced by the Los Angeles Rams) for Saturday’s preseason game with the Dallas Cowboys at Aloha Stadium and it poses an important question as the state looks ahead to erecting a successor for the soon-to-be 45-year old facility.
Namely, are projections of a 30,000-40,000 seating capacity for the new stadium aiming too low?
What the turnout for the Cowboys’ 14-10 victory over the Rams gave us was additional food for thought. A morsel that follows on the heels of 42,954 for the Monster X Tour in May and the series of Bruno Mars concerts that each drew 35,000 or more for three nights in November.
DRAWING A CROWDLargest crowds for Aloha Stadium events in 2018-19
1. Rams vs. Cowboys, 8/17/19, 49,936*
2. Monster X Tour, 5/4/19, 42,954
3. Bruno Mars, 11/10/18, 38,617
4. Bruno Mars, 11/11/18, 36,484
5. Bruno Mars, 11/8/18, 35,109
6. Eminem, 2/15/19, 28,339
7. Snoop Dogg, 12/12/18, 26,926
8. UH vs. Navy, 9/1/18, 26,849
9. Hawaii Bowl, 12/22/18, 25,864
10. Monster X Tour, 5/5/19, 25,635
Source: Aloha Stadium
To date, the seating capacity for the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District remains to be determined. Officials said it won’t be decided until the developer in the planned public-private partnership, likely to be selected in 2021 or 2022, weighs in with its proposal and the numbers are penciled out.
But the most commonly tossed around figures have, so far, been for something less than the current stadium’s 50,000 seating capacity.
In a 2014 Stadium Comprehensive Site Survey, a consultant said, “We recommend the state seek opportunities to build a new 30,000-35,000-seat stadium.” In summaries in a 2015 request for information, three of five respondents suggested seating for 32,000-35,000. Two others did not name a seating figure.
And in 2017 the Aloha Stadium Authority supported a seating capacity of “between 30,000 and 40,000 with modern state of the art amenities.”
Those numbers, industry figures say, are in line with the current trend for smaller stadiums across the country, especially for cities of Honolulu’s size and suited to what the state is planning to spend. The Legislature this past session approved $350 million in general funds and bonds, part of which is expected to be reimbursed by proceeds from the public-private partnership.
Rams coach Sean McVay saluted the turnout, calling the fans “awesome,” sentiments echoed by Cowboys’ coach Jason Garrett.
The Rams said a stadium in the 35,000-seat range shouldn’t be a deal breaker for the possibility of future NFL preseason games here. “It isn’t our place to say what they should or should not build here — that is up to what the community feels serves it best — but I don’t think that size is a truly limiting factor,” said Kevin Demoff, chief operating officer and executive vice president of football operations for the Rams. “I think an NFL team that is interested (in coming to Hawaii) would adapt to that.”
With amenities such as club seating, suites and private boxes, people in the industry say a 35,000- or 40,000-seat facility would still be attractive to NFL teams as well as concert promoters, with the potential for revenues to offset a smaller seating capacity.
“I actually see more opportunities for events in a smaller (35,000-seat) build,” said one industry veteran who asked not to be named because his firm could have future dealings with the state. “Going above (35,000) may force going to an upper deck, raising the cost of the building considerably.”
But for one rollicking evening in Halawa, fans gave planners something to think about.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 529-4820.