STAR-BULLETIN / 1997
Aloha Stadium employee Judy Kamalii polices the south end zone bleachers for tin cans.
Lawmakers toldState lawmakers were told yesterday that Aloha Stadium needs about $40 million in repairs in the next five years, plus $2 million to $3 million a year in regular maintenance.
Senators suggest it is
time to start planning
for a new sports arena
By Richard Borreca
That's more than the nearly $37 million it cost to build the facility, which opened in 1975.
But before any repair projects can be done, the state is budgeting an extra $300,000 to cover the "baseball section" of Aloha Stadium with FieldTurf, a new artificial grass. The Hawaii Tourism Authority and the NFL are paying $1 million to cover the rest of the stadium's playing area with FieldTurf.
The stadium budget also calls for $650,000 to replace "deteriorated air bearings" needed to move the stadium from the baseball to football configuration.
And finally, an additional $6.3 million is needed to fix the parking lot.
"The failing condition of the pavement exposes patrons who park in the lot, as well as those who attend carnival and fair events to undue safety hazards ... improvements will satisfy the needs for year-round fair activities, provide restroom and concession facilities for Aloha stadium patrons," a stadium budget request stated.
Legislators questioned why the state should spend any more public money on a stadium that is making most of its money from a flea market in the parking lot and is so old that it will soon need to be replaced.
"If we are to look at maintaining the stadium at an $8 million clip every year, rather than sinking in all this cash, why can't we plan ahead and think what we would to do with a new stadium," said Senate President Bob Bunda (D, Wahiawa-North Shore).
"We are talking about spending more than $50 million in the next five years," complained Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa), who added that it is likely that the stadium will need to be replaced anyway.
"We are always behind the ball. Are we going to wait for the stadium to be falling apart and then start discussing it?" she asked.
And Sen. Fed Hemmings (R, Lanikai- Waimanalo) complained that the state is "running the world's most expensive flea market."
The stadium was beset with problems from the beginning. The state settled for millions of dollars from several companies involved in the construction of the facility. The state had filed suit because of a severe rust problem on so-called "weathering" steel that was supposed to develop a thin, protective layer to shield the stadium from corrosion. The stadium underwent extensive repairs to fix the problem.
Kim, along with Bunda, Hemmings and Evan Dobelle, the University of Hawaii president, visited Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and viewed Invesco Field at Mile High, the Broncos' home stadium, last month to explore new stadium proposals.
Bunda said he was looking for some sort of public-private partnership for a new sports facility on Oahu.
Gov. Linda Lingle said her administration has not come up with a position on whether to rebuild, repair or relocate the stadium.
"I don't have any position because I have not been presented with any particular plan," Lingle said.
"I would be open to discussions with anybody who had a good idea to have a stadium that the people of Hawaii could enjoy and attract events and wouldn't cost the people of Hawaii any money," Lingle said yesterday.
Finally, Democratic freshman Kauai Sen. Gary Hooser noted that while the state subsidizes the stadium so that high schools can use it without charge, only Oahu schools benefit, while taxpayers on all the islands pay for it.
During the last fiscal year, the stadium had 279 events, including the three times a week flea market. The state made $6.9 million from events at the stadium and $573,700 from other sources. Total attendance to all events was 2 million, according to stadium officials.
The state paid Consolidated Amusement $380,000 last year in commissions and management fees to operate the flea market. Officials said yesterday the stadium made $3.2 million from the flea market last year.
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