Sunday, September 9, 2001

12-year-old William Puha of Paia, Maui, took it to
the fence as he looked to make a catch in a game of
parking-lot football at the Maui War Memorial Stadium
yesterday prior to UH's game against the Montana Grizzlies.

UH pigskin scores
big on Maui

Business and hotel owners are
especially pleased with the
boost to the economy

By Gary Kubota

WAILUKU >> Maui County officials broke Hawaii college football tradition by holding tailgate parties without barbecues and beer in the stadium parking lot.

But they brewed their own ingredients for success in attracting a sellout crowd at War Memorial Stadium last night, including more than 2,000 University of Montana Grizzlies fans.

With maroon paws "tattooed" on their cheeks and banners waving, the number of Grizzlies fans at the stadium totaled more than the 1,700 Montanans that usually visit Maui in an entire year.

The event was the first regular season University of Hawaii football game played on a neighbor island and away from Oahu.

University of Montana President George Dennison said he'd like his team to play against Hawaii on Maui again.

Kaulana Rozet, 5, of Makawao practiced her cheers
yesterday in the parking lot of the Maui War
Memorial Stadium for her aunt, Marleen Okamura.

"This was great for the alumni and supporters of the Griz," he said.

Wayne Hogan, Montana's athletic director, said the switch to Maui has encouraged more Montana fans to visit Hawaii.

"I think this island, Maui, has a magical appeal."

Maui resorts, shops and restaurants also felt the magic, with the game becoming a draw play for visitors in a traditionally slow month where average hotel occupancy is usually about 60 percent.

"Having Montana people is good," said Marsha Wienert, executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau. "The kamaaina business for the weekend is also good."

At the Sheraton-Maui Hotel & Resort where the team has been staying, occupancy has been close to 100 percent for the week.

Tailgaters from Oahu and Maui mixed it up before
yesterday's UH game. From left, Nancy Kunitake
of Kaneohe, Rita Kunitake of Kahului, Shirley and
Albert Chee of Wailuku, Kelli-Ann Uehara of
Waikele, Oahu and Lynee Kunitake of Kapolei.

"It's helped tremendously," hotel manager Chip Bahouth said.

"I think there are a lot more tourists in Lahaina and a lot more people in Whaler's Village and on the beach. With the economy softening, we feel very fortunate."

Henry Nakahodo, general manager of the Maui Beach Hotel in Kahului, said occupancy was at 90 percent, compared to the usual 70 percent.

Nakahodo said the scheduling of the game at night helped the hotels, because many fans from other islands reserved rooms at a resort.

Along Front Street in Lahaina, the number of people walking along the sidewalks at night were more than usual for early September.

"Any time there's more people on the island it definitely helps," said Michele Lincoln, a manager at Whaler's Locker.

Kimo's Restaurant service manager Tom Roberts said quite a few people from the University of Hawaii and from Montana have been customers.

"We think it's exciting," Roberts said.

Oahu fans Dean Gushikuma, left and Susie Kishi were
ready with props for yesterday's game in Maui.

Maui County has now hosted two major football events this year, including the Hula Bowl.

Maui Mayor James Apana said he's hoping the University of Hawaii will hold a regular season game in September every year on the Valley Isle and is considering holding a third major sports event at the stadium.

Apana said the Montana-Hawaii game has shown Maui is a place where people can do sports business.

The Apana administration said the decision against allowing barbecues at stadium tailgates was to avoid any unfortunate incidences. A county ordinance bans alcohol consumption on county property.

Administration officials said Apana will be assessing the policy after the game.

A number of Oahu residents weren't happy with the ban on barbecues and beer at tailgating parties in the stadium parking lot.

They were also upset that the county allowed corporate sponsors to have beer at "VIP" tents inside the stadium.

Hawaii Kai resident Paul Hirata said he and his wife, Betty, have been regular season ticket holders for 30 years and they expect to be able to barbecue and have a beer.

"If they applied the same rules for Hawaii games on Oahu, I wouldn't go to the games," Hirata said.

Montana fans held a private tailgate with barbecue and beer about an eighth of a mile away on the lawn of the YMCA.

Hogan said the visit to Maui has been good for the players who have never been to the Valley Isle.

"Lots of them will never have an opportunity to come here again," he said.

"It's been a great experience."

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