park kicks off with
Ground is broken inBy Gordon Y.K. Pang
Waipio for a 4,000-seat stadium,
18 other fields and 700
If the city builds it, they will play -- soccer, that is.
Mayor Jeremy Harris says soccer popularity is growing and that between the American Youth Soccer Organization and the Hawaii Youth Soccer Association, there may be 18,000 to 20,000 young people involved in soccer on Oahu.
"We don't have enough fields," Harris said.
Soccer official Beth Streets said there is constant juggling to figure out which teams will play or practice on the fields available.
To meet the need, the city was scheduled to break ground today for the $11 million Waipio Peninsula Soccer Park.
Harris and members of Oahu's soccer community say the facility is badly needed.
"I just think it's wonderful," said Streets, AYSO regional commissioner for the Hickam-Pearl Harbor region. "The kids need this."
Proposed are a 4,000-seat stadium, 18 other regulation soccer fields including three with lights, and 700 parking stalls.
The project also includes an improved loop road connecting Waipahu Depot Road with Waipio Point Access Road.
The complex will sit on 320 acres along the Waipio peninsula along the eastern coast of Waipahu. The Navy is leasing 233 of those acres to the city at $1 a year. The rest belongs to the city.
The mayor hopes the entire project can be completed by late summer 2000 so the city can host exhibition games featuring national teams from around the world on their way to Australia for the Olympic Games, which begin Sept. 15.
There's also talk of a youth soccer tournament -- possibly regional playoffs -- coming to Hawaii.
Debbie Ching, varsity girls soccer coach at Punahou School, said the prospect of seeing teams from across the country and around the world using the facility is the most exciting prospect.
"People could come and train," said Ching, a member of the mayor's soccer task force. "The mission is building a true soccer facility, and it's not just a question of having more fields to augment the overpopulated fields we do have."
Councilwoman Rene Mansho, one of the three Council members who represent Waipahu, said the economic benefits of bringing in teams from outside Hawaii are staggering.
Some people have questions, though.
Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann, who also represents Waipahu, said he endorses the concept of the complex but believes the administration first should have arranged for someone to operate it.
Hannemann said the administration promised that a nonprofit group would operate and maintain the facility in exchange for use of the fields.
"That's the way it was sold to us," he said.
City Managing Director Ben Lee said the administration is headed in that direction.
Hannemann said the city was supposed to issue a request for proposals for an operator last June.
Lee said the idea of operating the facilities will be "a lot more attractive once we start breaking ground, grassing the fields ... we felt the response would be much more favorable."
Some skeptics also wonder if the city should be embarking on a major park complex at a time of shrinking budgets and park personnel.
However, Harris said the project will be funded with bonds and now is the perfect time, since interest rates are low, as are construction costs.
"If we wait, construction costs are just going to go up," he said.