Star-Bulletin Sports

Cost of new turf
under $1 million

Aloha Stadium is still taking
offers from other companies

By Dave Reardon

Fieldturf could be installed at Aloha Stadium in "under two weeks" at a cost of $877,500, according to a letter that John Gilman, the CEO of Fieldturf, Inc., wrote last week to Richard Humphreys, executive director of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The proposal is less than the $1 million it cost St. Louis School to put in Fieldturf at its football practice field on campus two years ago.

The letter also answered several other questions about the product as the stadium looks to possibly replace its Astroturf surface amid complaints from the NFL and college teams about injuries.

Gilman wrote that converting the stadium from one sport to another would not be more difficult with Fieldturf; for example, changing from a football to a soccer configuration would take eight hours, Gilman wrote.

Fieldturf has also installed its product at Ford Field (the new home of the Detroit Lions) and Southern Methodist University's Gerald J. Ford Stadium, as well as several NFL practice fields.

Representatives from the company were in Hawaii last month to meet with members of the HTA and the stadium authority.

"Some of their executives and workers came out and did an analysis of the work they would have to do," Humphreys said. "We got a short draft of what would have to be done."

Humphreys said it is too early to consider it anything close to a done deal.

"We're still negotiating, doing it daily," he said. "We're working with the Fieldturf people, the Stadium Authority, the NFL, the university, the (Oahu Interscholastic Association) and the (Interscholastic League of Honolulu). So there's a lot of constituencies. There's a lot of cooks in this situation, it's not a simple process. We need a lot of consensus and agreement.

"We're moving in that direction, but there's no final approval."

A stadium spokesperson said Fieldturf isn't the only player in the field.

"We're getting inquiries and proposals from two or three other companies. I think they have some competition," Les Keiter said. "It is being looked at and something that will obviously happen ... if not them, then a competitor. There are so many people who have something to say, but I think it's encouraging. I'm not sure if the Stadium Authority is 100 percent convinced if it's the answer."

Keiter said he doesn't think a new surface will be in place by the beginning of football season.

"I think it's possible, but unlikely. It's not going to be done tomorrow. The best we can say is something is going to be done, but probably not by the beginning of the season."

The Pro Bowl is played at Aloha Stadium each year, but the NFL has threatened to move the game if the surface isn't changed.

June Jones, coach of the University of Hawaii, which plays at the stadium, also advocates a change -- not only in the field's surface, but in its management.

Jones has proposed that UH take over running the stadium and had some support in the state legislature early this session. But a senate bill stalled.

As for the Fieldturf issue, Jones advocates the synthetic grass. But he said it is out of his hands at this point.

"I'm thinking I've done all I can do," Jones said. "It's not my call. It's (Stadium Authority chairman) Larry Price's call."

Price could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Humphreys said not replacing the current Astroturf surface remains an option. There are five years left on its warranty.

"That's part of the consideration," Humphreys said. "Are there enough compelling arguments for changing the surface ahead of the scheduled time?"

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