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University of Hawaii says it wants more input in future of Aloha Stadium

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The University of Hawaii has given the state a list of what it terms “fundamental requirements” necessary to “establish a win-win relationship that is sustainable for UH with whomever is operating the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District.”

In the four-page memorandum distributed Thursday to stadium and state officials as well as legislators that has been obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, UH said it is “apparent that” the school has, “no assurance that the NASED project will be a viable solution to our longstanding financial issues playing at Aloha Stadium.”

In addition, UH said it has been advised that the current 46-year old stadium would likely be demolished at the beginning of the project instead of after the new facility is constructed, potentially leaving the Rainbow Warriors to “identify an alternate site to play football for at least three seasons, 2021-‘23.”

The letter follows a Dec. 17 Stadium Authority announcement of a “temporary moratorium” on new events for 2021 as well as reduced operations at the 46-year old facility due to COVID-19 safety restrictions and budgetary issues.

In response to questions from the Star-Advertiser, State Comptroller Curt Otaguro said in a statement today, “We appreciate the feedback from UH and will have considerable discussions about the items in the letter. Unfortunately, the pandemic has had an unforeseen impact on the financial situation at Aloha Stadium, which necessitated the recent actions announced by the Stadium Authority. There was no way to anticipate this turn of events, so we are doing our best to make fiscally responsible decisions in light of the stadium’s budget crisis.”

UH charged, “Our current assessment is that UH is, at best, the fourth priority in making NASED decisions after (the Department of Accounting and General Services) and the Stadium Authority enters into a contract. UH will be considered after the financiers, after the developer, and after the Stadium Authority or other operator. The Stadium Authority did not disagree with this assessment. So, while ostensibly the anchor tenant, UH has no direct input into the RFP criteria, process, selection of contractor(s) or provisions of the contract that the state will enter into. In the meantime, UH is being forced to fend for itself to identify and prepare a home field for football for at least 2021-2023, likely longer, and potentially indefinitely.”

UH, which holds an ex-officio position on the Stadium Authority and often has a representative at the meetings, said it was briefed five days in advance of the authority’s announcement but is not party to executive sessions.

In the new stadium, which could open in 2024, UH says it needs:

>Paramount consideration in scheduling.

>No rental or facilities cost for football games.

> All ticket receipts including preferred seating donation revenue

for football.

> Revenue from premium parking.

> A minimum of half of the luxury boxes to sell for UH games.

> Revenue from ‘club’ area membership fees for UH games

> A minimum of half of net concession and merchandise revenue.

> A minimum of half of net parking revenue.

> Rights to sell advertising for UH football games and retain the funds.

UH said, “These concepts are based on what almost every other Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision team realizes from home games, only some of which UH was receiving when we played at Aloha Stadium.”

Otaguro’s statement said, “In regards to the NASED project, we met with UH and other stadium tenants early in the process and we continually encourage them to share additional input with us as we move through the various stages of the environmental impact statement. After a developer is selected following the request for proposal process, we will engage with all stadium tenants more intensely to ensure that the new stadium addresses their specific needs. We understand that UH would like a different financial arrangement with the new stadium and we will have those discussions at the proper time. Currently, it’s too early, since we are only in the preliminary planning stages.”

A private development partner for the state is expected to be named late this year.

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