Aloha Stadium shutting down indefinitely, leaving UH football without a home field

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Aloha Stadium is shutting down. The Stadium Authority announced on Thursday, Dec. 17, that it will be closed indefinitely after all previously scheduled events are honored.

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Stadium officials blame the lack of funds due to safety restrictions from the pandemic, but sources also tell KHON2 that the facility has been deemed unsafe to hold crowds. The stadium was built in 1975 and safety issues have been raised before due to corrosion in the stands.

There are plans to build a new Aloha Stadium, but groundbreaking is not expected until the middle of 2021 at the earliest. That means the new stadium can be ready for the 2023 football season at best.

The Aloha Stadium Authority announcement was as much as a surprise to Sen. Glenn Wakai, who says he attends every board meeting. The board made the decision during executive session so he was not there.

“I had no idea that they were gonna do what they did today and kind of just pull the plug on future events due to COVID issues,” said Wakai, Chairman of the Energy, Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology Committee.

The stadium authority would not go on camera for an interview and released a statement saying, “Aloha Stadium has been expending its reserves to maintain operations since COVID-19 restrictions began. Unfortunately, we have reached a stage where we can no longer afford to continue these expenditures.”

“Aloha Stadium has been expending its reserves to maintain operations since COVID-19 restrictions began. Unfortunately, we have reached a stage where we can no longer afford to continue these expenditures.”

Aloha Stadium Authority Statement on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020

The statement adds prior reserved events — such as the drive-through Christmas display and the Swap Meet — that take place in the parking lot will continue.

Safety issues have been raised about the stadium before. A report released to the public in January, 2019, said there were about 200 steel members showing severe corrosion and the stadium needed $30 million in repairs. Wakai says the last time lawmakers approved money for stadium maintenance was in 2017, a sum of $10 million. He says it did not make sense to keep putting money in with a new stadium being planned.

“Especially during this COVID time, do we want to drop $15-$20 million to fix the stadium when we have a new one that’s potentially two years down the road?” said Wakai.

This leaves the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warrior football team without a home stadium for at least two years. Athletic Director David Matlin says, “We are beyond disappointed of the news at today’s announcement. . .We must now take responsibility ourselves to find a suitable venue for our Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii’s football team, to play in front of our loyal fans beginning in 2021.”

The new facility will be called the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District and will include a mix of residential, hotel and retail space. State lawmakers still have to approve a bill next session before groundbreaking begins.

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