Star-Bulletin Sports


Aloha Stadium
turf conflict reaches
state’s highest office

Gov. Ben Cayetano holds a 2-hour
meeting on the issue of a soft vs.
hard playing surface

By Dave Reardon

Turf wars and some real political football made their way to the governor's chambers yesterday.

At least one participant involved with the Aloha Stadium field surface situation left encouraged after a two-hour meeting with Gov. Ben Cayetano and others. But most of the attendees were hush-hush, or eluded reporters like a shifty tailback dodging a posse of linebackers.

"I thought it was productive," said Rick Humphreys, executive director of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. "Nothing like this is easy, but we are proceeding."

At issue is if a new, softer artificial surface will be installed at the stadium in time for the start of the football season. Coaches and players -- including NFL Pro Bowlers -- have complained about injuries caused by the current AstroTurf surface.

The Hawaii Stadium Authority has been resistant to public pressure to authorize a change, saying it would be too expensive and that there is nothing wrong with the current surface.

Cayetano stepped in last week, calling yesterday's meeting.

Although few details were available, Humphreys indicated that Cayetano asked for quick progress.

"He's committed to the NFL and to the Pro Bowl," said Humphreys, whose agency is tasked with working with the NFL in staging the Pro Bowl. "He thinks the relationship is great. But he's not dictating to the (Stadium and Tourism) Authorities. Cayetano always points people to various authorities and boards."

That's what Cayetano has done with e-mails he has received from the public calling for installation of Fieldturf or another soft surface. He answered the e-mails, voicing his support of a new surface, and referred the writers of the e-mails to Stadium Authority chairman Larry Price.

The NFL has requested that the surface be changed or it might take the game to another city. A letter from Gene Upshaw of the NFL Players Association makes a similar request.

In comments yesterday morning, Cayetano said it's more than just pleasing the NFL.

"The issue on turf is not only about the Pro Bowl. It's also about the safety of our UH players and high school teams," Cayetano said. "We're hoping we can structure an agreement."

University of Hawaii coach June Jones also said he supports installing Fieldturf.

Fieldturf can be installed at Aloha Stadium for $877,500 in two weeks, according to Fieldturf CEO John Gilman.

UH Athletics

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