Lee Cataluna: Bracing for traffic when there is none
Two Saturdays ago, when the University of Hawaii football team was playing Fresno State at Aloha Stadium, I set out extra early to get to a 5 p.m. meeting in Mililani.
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Two Saturdays ago, when the University of Hawaii football team was playing Fresno State at Aloha Stadium, I set out extra early to get to a 5 p.m. meeting in Mililani. Extra-extra early, like 3 o’clock, so that I would not get stuck in the crush of traffic as legions of die-hard Warrior football fans crammed into the stadium.
But the commute was unimpeded through downtown, past the airport and through Halawa. There was so little traffic, so few cars on the road, I got to Mililani and had more than an hour to kill in Walmart. (An hour feels longer than an hour in Walmart.)
This past Saturday, UH played San Jose State at Aloha Stadium. The drive from East Honolulu past the football game and into Mililani took an almost unbelievable 30 minutes. Easy like Sunday morning. And BTW, I drive like an unhurried grandma rambling down a country road on the way to church. Slow and careful.
Nobody was rushing to that game.
It’s not just that people aren’t going to the UH football games. They are actively staying away. They aren’t passing by the stadium on their way to a bigger event. They’re not even leaving the house.
The stadium has 50,000 seats, so when only 16,367 show up, as happened on Saturday night, the place really seems empty. Attendance is trending lower for each game.
None of the usual reasons seem to be to blame.
The football team isn’t the best ever, but it’s not the worst, either. They’ve had some exciting wins along the way.
The coach is not loathed in the community. Nick Rolovich might be a bit of a goofball, but he’s earnest enough and nobody is calling for his job (or maybe some are, but the voices haven’t reached critical mass).
And there are marketing and promotional stunts aplenty.
Just this weekend there was a big Military Appreciation program, free rides and bounce houses for the kids, live music, a Heineken Selfie Wall, and Hawaiian Airlines was giving out 5,000 free luggage tags.
Traffic advisories prior to Saturday’s game sounded so hopeful:
“Plan ahead, arrive early and consider all transportation options available for you. … Please allow ample time to find parking. … Expect delays when exiting the stadium.”
Oahu’s miserable traffic affects so many facets of local life. People make career choices, housing choices, decisions about their children’s extracurricular activities and social life based on what traffic will be like and how much energy they have left to deal with it.
The older generation used to explain their decision to opt out of something with the umbrella phrase “Ah, humbug,” meaning that the effort it would take is not worth the reward.
People are weary of fighting traffic five days a week, and when Saturday night rolls around, maybe the idea of getting back into traffic takes all the fun out of football. Better to stay at home, invite the gang and split the pay-per-view.
Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or email@example.com.