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Aloha Stadium and COVID-19 top the list of things to watch in 2021 for Hawaii sports

                                Aloha Stadium is on its last legs and its replacement is nowhere near being built.
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Aloha Stadium is on its last legs and its replacement is nowhere near being built.

You would have needed better than 20-20 vision to see into the 2020 future.

When assembling these kind of stories, you often rely on 20-20 hindsight from the previous year to predict what will be important over the next 365 days. But what our sports staff thought was on the horizon disappeared into the March mist as the world began to address a novel coronavirus that would eventually be named COVID-19.

The day the National Anthem died at ballparks and arenas across the country, most folks figured the world would shake this thing off like a bad case of fleas. But that proved to be wishful thinking, leaving high school, college and professional sports teams trying to figure out what to do next. That problem still exists as we turn the page on 2020 and see what Chapter 2021 has in store for local sports fans across the island chain.

1. The legislative session begins in a few days and with COVID still ruling the hallways of the state capitol, trying to revive a local economy that’s one beep above a flatline will be the No. 1 goal. But one item of particular note for officials at the University of Hawaii and sports fans in general is what’s to be done with the past and future Aloha Stadiums?

The old one is a rust bucket that’s one Bruno Mars concert away from being stomped into the ground. The second one is a tin can that has been kicked down the road for the last time. It’s put up or shut up this time around, but you wonder what kind of priority the new kid on the block has when the rest of it looks like the projects.

More lipstick is needed on the old pig to keep events like the University of Hawaii football season and a variety of national bowl games going on until the new one can be built. Local folks are already rail weary and the idea of constructing a $350 million facility in times like these seems a little whacked. But it won’t always be like this, so it’s time for some constructive thinking to make sure at least part of the old stadium still functions until all of the new one is built.

2. If you thought the COVID virus would give way to prep football in the spring, well, you might need to think again. Nobody wants to pull the plug on the favored son of local gatherings, but it seems unlikely that anything is going to change enough to have prep football in the spring and then again in the fall. Given what has been going on the last 10 months, preps in the fall with fans in the stands will take some vaccinating. The shots won’t arrive in time for the spring, leaving a lot of young men and coaches to ponder what might have been.

3. What first-year head coach Todd Graham accomplished without a single spring or fall camp snap is nothing short of a miracle. The football team played well enough this year to finish 5-4, including a surprisingly easy New Mexico Bowl win over the University of Houston.

A normal spring camp this year might be more in the cards. It’s also possible the world will be up and running again in August, but we all thought something similar would happen last March and look where that got us. There’s also that little issue about a place to play your home games that UH will have to deal with over the coming months. Had Graham known last January when he was hired what he knows this January, would he have still signed on the dotted line?

In 20-20 hindsight, only he knows for sure.

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