The Aloha Stadium Authority announced today that it has placed a “temporary moratorium” on new events, as well as reduced operations at the venue due to ongoing COVID-19 safety restrictions and budgetary problems.
The pandemic restrictions have severely limited revenue-generation opportunities, authority officials said in a news release. The release made no mention of maintenance issues despite earlier media reports, citing unidentified sources, that the stadium is shutting because of concerns about safety of the structure.
All events reserved prior to today’s decision will still be honored, the authority said, and activities in the parking lot — including the drive-thru holiday display Show Aloha Land, and Saturday Swap Meets — will continue.
“It is with a heavy heart that we make this difficult decision,” said Ross Yamasaki, chairman of the Stadium Authority, in a news release. “Aloha Stadium has been expending its reserves to maintain operations since COVID-19 restrictions began. Unfortunately, we have reached a stage where we can no longer afford to continue these expenditures. It is our hope that we can find a long-term solution but for now, must make these changes to reduce expenses and generate revenue through activities in the parking lot and events that have already been booked.”
Issues with rust have been an ongoing problem for the aging 45-year-old facility, which is also facing a budget deficit for the current fiscal year.
The stadium is the home of the University of Hawaii football team, which hosted five games at this season. No fans were allowed into the games. The closure could also impact high school football as well as other spectator events such as concerts and graduations.
“I just think it’s such a disastrous development to shut down the stadium. But I understand it’s another victim of COVID and there’s just not enough revenues coming in for the stadium to operate as it has been in the past,” state Sen. Glen Wakai said today.
“I just feel especially for the University of Hawaii. Where in the world are they going to be playing their football games for the next three seasons until we complete the new stadium,” Wakai said.
Asked about the stadium at a state House legislative hearing this morning, UH President David Lassner said it was a grave concern to the university.
“It’s pretty serious to us,” he said. “If we can’t have fans there, we need to identify another place to play for fall 2021. So it’s gonna be a real challenge.”
Lassner said he would expect to talk to the Stadium Authority, as a new stadium is at least three years away.
“The project isn’t really out of the starting gate yet, so this is of great concern to us,” he said.
Lassner said he’s optimistic about having fans in seats next season, and it’s possible the football team could play on an on-campus facility or a high school field.
“We are beyond disappointed of the news at today’s announcement from the Aloha Stadium Authority that there will be no further events in the current stadium with fans,” UH athletic director David Matlin said in a statement issued by the university. “Aloha Stadium has such a storied history and carries so many memories for our football program and generations of Hawaii families. We must now take responsibility ourselves to find a suitable venue for our Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii’s football team, to play in front of our loyal fans beginning in 2021.”
Three developer-led teams were selected as finalists to present proposals for building the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District last week. The new stadium is projected to open in late 2023 or early 2024.