State Reps. Aaron Johanson and Sylvia Luke joined Spotlight Hawaii this morning to discuss the future of Aloha Stadium, and more broadly about the state’s budget challenges.
The Stadium Authority is seeking to redevelop the 98-acre site, with a 30,000-seat facility, to replace the aging 50,000-seat stadium. The project is expected to also include a mix of housing and retail development.
“The stadium is great but for too long it’s been sort of this fallow property that other than games, and a parking lot, and a swap meet, it hasn’t really been leveraged for it’s maximum potential,” said Johanson, whose district includes the redevelopment area.
“We see this as a great opportunity to leverage not just the stadium itself, but the entire 98-acre campus, which is a prime jewel that is largely undeveloped, to turn it into an additional thriving community that really does connect the edge of Honolulu in the stadium area with Aiea.”
The project is expected to run upwards of $300 million dollars. Luke, who chairs the House Finance Committee said that it is important for the public to understand the state funds allocated to the project have been generated through bonds, set aside long before the financial woes brought on by the pandemic.
“This project was already underway before COVID and there’s a commitment to continue, otherwise you know, any time there’s a delay it will essentially be wasting taxpayer’s money,” she said.
Both Luke and Johanson said that they believe it may still be possible for the University of Hawaii to play games at Aloha Stadium in the near future, despite the Stadium Authority telling UH that that is no longer an option.
Just this morning, UH athletic director Dave Matlin told the Board of Regents that the university is projecting expenses to play football games on its Manoa campus will exceed revenues by $400,000 a year.
“When the Stadium Authority made an assessment that the stadium is partly unsafe, they looked at the utilization of the entire stadium. But as you know, we have not been filling all 50,000 seats so we could probably utilize a portion, so it really depends on what portion we can keep open to allow UH football and other things to happen,” Luke said.
Luke suggested the possibility of repairing part of the existing stadium to allow for games.
Johanson agreed, “The field is still very usable at the stadium…I think we have to do what is ultimately in the best interest of the taxpayer.”
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations and to view the rest of this month’s schedule.