HONOLULU (KHON2) — University of Hawaii’s brand new football stadium will be empty of fans on Saturday, Sept. 18, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. UH is the only university in the nation that will not allow any fans.
Some said the damage goes beyond the loss of revenue and home-field advantage.
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There was plenty of excitement when UH played its first-ever football game on campus, with the ‘Bows outlasting Portland State. Major disappointment sank in, however, as UH is set to face San Jose State on Saturday at the newly-renovated — yet again empty — Ching Field Stadium.
“Finally you have this new TC Ching Field and stadium and everybody was anticipating students coming down from the dormitories, all the town people, the season ticket holders, and it being a really home-field advantage,” said Rich Miano, KHON2’s ‘Bows Football Final analyst.
Miano said it was doubly disappointing for the players and the fans because fans around the country were not allowed at stadiums in 2020. When Aloha Stadium announced that it could not be used in the 2021 season, UH got the ball rolling fast to renovate Ching Field — which seats 9,000 people — at a cost of $9.4 million. With other stadiums around the country filled with fans, Miano said this will hurt Hawaii’s recruiting efforts.
“It’s a dog-eat-dog world and every single school that’s recruiting against the University of Hawaii will use this scenario to their advantage,” said Miano.
UH was hoping to at least get the players’ families to attend but said the governor denied that request. In a statement, UH athletic director Dave Matlin said, “I am disappointed with the governor’s decision… We believe that the plans we have proposed to allow a very limited number of fans, all of whom would be required to be fully vaccinated, masked, and socially distanced, would allow for a safe and responsible event.”
UH said each of the six home games would have raised $570,000. The pandemic also canceled out one of the major fundraisers for the program, the annual Pigskin Pigout, which raises about $100,000 each year. Organizer Don Murphy said he will do a weeklong drive-thru event in October instead.
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“We even talked about trying to get the coaches to carry the food out when they come through. I’m not sure we’re gonna be able to do that, certainly for a week,” said Murphy.