Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Tuesday, June 29, 1999

Aloha Stadium has proved
to be no ‘white elephant’

SOMETIME this football season , the 22 millionth person will pass through one of the 32 Aloha Stadium turnstiles.

University of Hawaii football coach June Jones hopes it'll be at one of the Rainbow games.

The Magic Number is 111,787 - that's how many fans are needed to reach the 22 million mark. About three UH home games should do it, since high school football games also figure to add to the total.

In other words, since Aloha Stadium opened its gates in 1975 with the Rainbows doing the honors in their season opener against Texas A&I, a total of 21,888,213 fans have clicked through the turnstiles.

That's not counting the untold millions who went to the Halawa facility for swap meets, state fairs and other events that occurred outside the gates.

I bring it up not because the Aloha Stadium officials hosted their annual media day luncheon yesterday, but because of all the criticism that was raised when the stadium was built.

"A $35 million white elephant" was one of the charges levelled. OK, so it's more rusty red than white. But a facility that's hardly used? Hardly.

More than 21 million people over all these years can't be wrong.

I bring it up, too, because the real white elephant is the $350 million State Convention Center. Yet, there have hardly been letters of protest about that facility which just celebrated its first anniversary with what? About 20,000 people?

DON'T get me wrong. I believe every state that strives to be first class needs both a large stadium and convention center among its facilities.

Maybe, one of these years, the convention center will begin to earn its keep. But, for now, no other state facility has given the people more bang for the bucks than Aloha Stadium.

So it deserves a happy 25th birthday celebration this fall.

One of the celebratory trappings is the new $2.7 million AstroTurf surface, a much improved version of the one that replaced the original field nine years ago.

The media got an early look at it during yesterday's media day luncheon. The new field should be completed in a month.

Nothing will go to waste. Large portions of the old AstroTurf will be given to UH, UH-Hilo, more than 20 high schools, churches and youth baseball leagues .

THERE had been talk about the possibility of installing Sport-Grass, a hybrid weave of natural grass grown between synthetic carpet. But AstroTurf was judged to be cheaper in the long run because of less maintenance, according to stadium officials.

And more suitable for Aloha Stadium, which has other events, such as rock concerts, according to stadium manager Eddie Hayashi.

That's not counting the heavy amount of use during the football season when the high schools play doubleheaders and tripleheaders before the Rainbows take the field Saturday night.

Injuries are more prevalent on artificial surfaces so players prefer natural turf.

Still, Jones likes the idea of his Rainbows playing on artificial turf. "On offense, we're an AstroTurf team," he says.

Interestingly, the NFL is thinking about laying in a grass surface over the AstroTurf for the Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium in keeping with a recommendation by the NFL Players Association.

The New Orleans Saints will put in a grass field in the Louisiana SuperDome just for their preseason game this fall against Green Bay because the Packers didn't want to play on artificial surface.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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