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New Aloha Stadium plan moves forward with posting of draft environmental impact statement

                                A conceptual rendering of the new Aloha Stadium within the proposed entertainment district. The final design will be determined with the selected development team.
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A conceptual rendering of the new Aloha Stadium within the proposed entertainment district. The final design will be determined with the selected development team.

The march to replace aging Aloha Stadium reached a major milestone Wednesday with the release of the draft environmental impact statement for the new Aloha Stadium entertainment district.

The posting of the draft EIS and subsequent public-­comment period represents a significant step in the process of constructing a new 35,000-seat multipurpose stadium as the centerpiece of a mixed-use development on the 98-acre Halawa site, home of the 45-year-old current stadium.

“We appreciate all of the hard work, collaboration and support the NASED project has received, especially given the pandemic challenges of the past year,” Chris Kinimaka, public works administrator for the state Department of Accounting and General Serv­ices, according to an online release announcing the document’s posting. “We are overjoyed to announce this significant milestone and look forward to moving the project forward expeditiously in the coming year.”

The draft EIS was compiled from “a comprehensive set of studies … covering matters such as: archaeological, cultural, flora and fauna, geotechnical, noise, engineering, hazardous materials, traffic, and economic considerations,” according to the release.

The online publication of the draft EIS opens the public-comment period, which runs through Feb. 8. The comment period is 45 days, and the NASED team has scheduled virtual community meetings on the project for Jan. 26 and 28. Comments also can be submitted via email to NASED.EIS@ wilsonokamoto.com or through mail to NASED Comments, 1907 S. Beretania St. No. 400, Honolulu, HI 96826.

“We encourage full public and stakeholder engagement in the Draft EIS process,” Kinimaka said. “From the beginning, we have put a premium on community outreach and that commitment will continue.”

After the comment period, any adjustments will be included in the final EIS, which is then forwarded to the governor’s office for approval.

The study led by Crawford Architects (a Kansas City, Mo.-based company with an office in Honolulu) prepared by Wilson Okamoto Corp. and administered by DAGS serves as a “document of discovery and disclosure that primarily identifies environmental matters impacting the project site and develops strategies and mitigations for remedying those matters.”

According to the release, the results of the study did not identify any major environmental concerns, “such as hazardous contaminants that pose an immediate threat to the health and safety of the people who currently use/visit Aloha Stadium or to nearby residents and businesses.”

While the study did identify “several issues or concerns for the project site,” the issues “are all expected to be addressable and managed through good project planning, administration and governance.”

Progress toward a new stadium gained added attention with last week’s announcement by the Stadium Authority that it would “reduce operations and place a moratorium on new events” at the current 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium, which has faced mounting maintenance issues.

In response to last week’s development, University of Hawaii athletic director David Matlin said the school “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.”

The state has appropriated up to $350 million for its share of the public-private partnership to develop the site.

Earlier this month three developer-led teams — Aloha Stadium District Partners, Aloha Stadium Hui Hilina‘i and Waiola Development Partners — were announced as finalists for the contract to develop, design, build and maintain the new stadium. The prospective developers will be asked to submit proposed designs for the new stadium and surrounding development. A developer is slated to be selected before the end of 2021.

The new stadium had been targeted for completion in time for UH’s 2023 season opener. But the failure of a key bill to gain approval through the Legis­- lature this summer could push the date to late 2023 or early 2024.

How to comment

The public comment period has opened for the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District’s environmental impact statement. Comments can be submitted via:

>> Virtual community meetings on Jan. 26 and 28. Members of the public can register for the meetings at bit.ly/2KpGjmx (Jan. 26) and bit.ly/2Kpyzks (Jan. 28).

>> Email to NASED.EIS@wilsonokamoto.com.

>> Mail to NASED Comments, 1907 S. Beretania St. No. 400, Honolulu, HI 96826.

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