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Kalani Simpson

Sidelines

By Kalani Simpson

Sunday, July 28, 2002


No new plot in
"As the Turf Turns"

THERE is no escaping it. It must be sweeps week. That old reliable ratings grabber -- much like "Meet My Folks," you don't want to watch, but you can't turn away -- is on my television again.

"As the Turf Turns" is back.

And it only seems like a rerun.

Last week, thanks to reporting by Channel 2, we were shocked -- SHOCKED! -- to find out that the preparation for and installation of Fieldturf at Aloha Stadium may cost an additional $2 million.

We knew that.

Let me amend that to, we should not be surprised by that. This is not exactly news. The Stadium Authority told us that. They told Fieldturf. They told everyone who would listen. They looked into the TV cameras and made sarcastic comments about it.

The Stadium Authority has maintained all along that this project would cost far more than anyone else said it would. When Fieldturf brandished the $877,500 figure, the Stadium Authority countered with engineers and charts and claims that its calculations came closer to a couple million.

In fact, the Stadium Authority spent most of its June 13 "Turf Turns" episode of a meeting making the case that installing Fieldturf would be too expensive, too complicated, too everything.

But then in the end, in the final plot twist, it did something shocking. It approved the project anyway. (Conditionally, of course.)

So now, yes, the Stadium Authority can tell us that it told us so. It did tell us so. It also went along anyway. (They KNEW this was going to happen? And if this is such a big deal now, and if they knew it was going to happen all along, they gave the green light?) That day, the Stadium Authority asked tough questions, didn't like any of the answers and still gave its OK.

What's different now?

Besides, it isn't their money. One of the conditions was that costs would be paid for by the NFL, the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Fieldturf. That was a question all along. Who would pay how much? It was never answered. It was, as was so much of this soap opera, just one more "stay tuned."

There is a slight difference between $877,500 and $2 million (and the HTA is already in for a half million). Now, as they say, we are starting to talk about real money. Would you be surprised if any or all three of these entities pat down their pockets and decide it just might not be in the budget this year?

Of course now, according to The Associated Press, the governor is countering that Fieldturf, even at this kind of kala, is "a worthwhile investment."

It might be. Everything I have seen, heard and read says that this is a superior artificial surface.

So it would be a worthwhile investment if it ends up holding up for the long term (Nebraska was the first major college football program to install the stuff, a mere three years ago). It seemed like a good investment at the time to install brand new AstroTurf at Aloha Stadium in 1999. But if you take it out and replace it just a few years later, then it obviously wasn't.

It would be a worthwhile investment if it gets the NFL and the Pro Bowl to stay in Hawaii. (What are they going to do, go to Orlando? We offer a unique, valuable, irreplaceable environment, that, in case anyone forgot, saved this game. See how many millionaire all-stars will really show up for a free trip to see Mickey.)

It would be a worthwhile investment if Aloha Stadium remains the home of Hawaii football and numerous other events for at least the next several years.

So, yes, if all that is true, if someone will actually pay for it, it would be nice to have the stuff.

But what surprises me is the curious single-mindedness of the governor, of the NFL, of June Jones, even of fans who have caught the Fieldturf Fever, that Aloha Stadium's surface must be replaced by Fieldturf -- and Fieldturf only.

And now, it seems, it is still a good investment at more than double the cost.

(The governor is even using soccer as a reason for needing the stuff, noting that soccer's international body, FIFA, has approved Fieldturf. Here's something else FIFA has approved: grass. Oahu already has at least two excellent soccer facilities. And unless our sports landscape changes drastically, immediately, 30,000 people are not going to show up to watch soccer. It won't need the stadium. There may be many arguments to install Fieldturf ... but soccer?)

Whatever the reason, there are people who REALLY want Fieldturf.

The Stadium Authority had grave misgivings, overlooked them, was confronted by them, then seems to have rededicated itself to them.

The money question is still unanswered.

And this soap opera refuses to stop.



Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com



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