Give stadium to UH and study whether to build a new one
The state House has approved a bill that would transfer Aloha Stadium from the Stadium Authority to the University of Hawaii.
State House leaders are proposing to transfer Aloha Stadium to the University of Hawaii, but the Stadium Authority doesn't want to give it up and the university doesn't want to be saddled with the high costs of maintenance and repair. Legislators should use common sense in placing the stadium under the jurisdiction of the university while providing needed funding, but the larger question is whether the stadium needs to be replaced.
Anthony Guerrero, vice chairman of First Hawaiian Bank and chairman of Koa Anuenue, the UH sports booster organization, proposed three years ago, when he headed the Stadium Authority, that the stadium be transferred to the university. However, Kevin H.M. Chong Kee, president of Kevin's Electric and the authority's current chairman, opposes it.
Guerrero also proposes that the public corporation that would be created to administer the stadium be relieved from the costs of repair. The bill approved this week by the House would not do that, and UH President David McClain told the committee that it "would not be economically feasible."
Making repairs of the stadium would cost as much as $150 million to sustain it through the next 30 years, according to state comptroller Russ Saito, with immediate repairs costing $25 million. Saito is doubtful about the new entity's ability to raise the amount of money needed. However, nothing should prevent the state from funneling maintenance funds to the UH corporation.
The Legislature has neglected to adequately consider a proposal by Congressman Neil Abercrombie, supported by Mayor Mufi Hannemann, to build a new stadium on state land in the Kapolei area, financed by proceeds from the sale of land in the Aloha Stadium area for housing development. Saito estimates a new stadium would cost up to $500 million. The Lingle administration and Stadium Authority also oppose that proposal.
Abercrombie's proposal appears to be economically feasible, but questions have been raised about the new stadium's remoteness. Aloha Stadium is ideally located, with freeway access from all directions. Sixty percent of the stadium's revenue comes from the swap meet, which operated 158 days last year, while only 13 percent comes from UH athletic events. Carnivals and concerts account for the remainder.
Meanwhile, the stadium should be placed under the direction of the university, as are college football stadiums throughout the country. Only recently did the Stadium Authority stop charging UH "rent," amounting to state funds being transferred from one arm of the state to the other.
At some point in the near future, legislators should focus on whether to build a new stadium.