Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, May 30, 2002


Turf a step closer
to installation

The tourism authority approves
$500,000 to replace AstroTurf

By Dave Reardon

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has decided to provide money for Fieldturf to be installed this summer at Aloha Stadium. The questions now are if the NFL will pitch in enough to cover the rest of the bill, and if the Stadium Authority will approve the project it vehemently opposed until less than two weeks ago.

The HTA's board of directors voted unanimously yesterday to authorize spending $500,000 to install the surface in time for the first games of the football season, a high school doubleheader on Aug. 16.

Fieldturf has proposed installation at a cost of $877,500. The HTA is negotiating with the NFL and Fieldturf to meet the total cost. HTA acting executive director Rick Humphreys said the $500,000 the HTA authorized was money earmarked for other HTA events that were canceled.

Today the HTA was to propose replacing the current AstroTurf surface at the Stadium Authority's meeting, Humphreys said.

In a contract negotiated in 1999 and signed in 2000, the HTA agreed to, by 2002, install a surface that would please the NFL, which holds the Pro Bowl at the stadium each year. The HTA -- which is tasked with marketing Hawaii -- considers the NFL all-star game its marquee sports event.

The NFL has specified that the surface be grass or Fieldturf.

"A deal is a deal," Humphreys said. "We signed a contract."

Because of maintenance considerations, grass is not practical. Putting grass in once a year for the Pro Bowl would cost between $300,000 and $500,000, Humphreys estimated.

"Given that range, it doesn't seem feasible," he said.

The AstroTurf surface was installed three years ago for $2.4 million and has five years left on its warranty. But coaches and players have said Fieldturf is safer than AstroTurf, and the Pro Bowl could move to a different city if the turf isn't changed.

The Stadium Authority must approve the change, however, and that group has a list of conditions that will be discussed at today's meeting, Humphreys said.

Gov. Ben Cayetano met with HTA, Stadium Authority and NFL representatives last week to try to break an impasse, as Stadium Authority chairman Larry Price strongly opposed a change.

Price's stance has since softened, but the Stadium Authority still has questions about Fieldturf, including if the surface can support a crane that is used to set up the stadium for concerts.

After yesterday's HTA meeting, Humphreys was hopeful that Fieldturf, the NFL and the HTA could meet the conditions.

"HTA wants to facilitate this for the state," Humphreys said. "Until the players are running out onto the field it's not a done deal."

He and other board members said pleasing the NFL and keeping the Pro Bowl in Hawaii are important to HTA's overall plan in increasing tourism in the state.

"Whatever support we can, we'll provide," board member David Carey said. "Seventeen, 18, 20,000 (visitors) come to the game. We have an outstanding agreement with the NFL."

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