HONOLULU (KHON2) — A day after welcoming back the back-to-back national champion University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team, the state remains abuzz about the big win over Long Beach St.
It’s a triumph that delivered some much-needed hope to the university, which has weathered the harshest pandemic impact of perhaps any athletic department. Even as athletics director David Matlin and company still deal with the financial ramifications of that, the sun is starting to prevail in Manoa.
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“I think the sky is the limit. I think what we’re seeing now is the beginning of the Manoa Miracle,” Matlin said.
With even former President Barack Obama shouting out the ‘Bows after their win, the entire department has been on a roll of late.
“What we really see is you see all of our coaches and student-athletes supporting each other and celebrating this. I mean, obviously, you’re into your sport, but when you see them coming out rejoicing with this team, I think winning begets winning,” Matlin said.
It wasn’t so long ago that the athletic department was stuck with canceled seasons, a lagging lack of fans due to restrictions, the condemnation of Aloha Stadium, and the football team’s uprising against former head coach Todd Graham.
Since then, the national title, the Rainbow Wahine basketball team won the Big West Conference, baseball and softball have had strong seasons, and the hiring of Timmy Chang as head football coach has brought about a cultural change — apparent in the 6,000 plus fans who attended the Rainbow Warrior football spring game.
That appetite for tickets predicts much demand for the fall season, but a desire to expand Ching Stadium past its 9,000-seat capacity is on hold.
“There’s been some challenges with steel, obviously, finances come into it a little bit right now. We have some more information next month, but we’re hoping to get some expansion before the 2023 season,” Matlin said.
The legislature recently earmarked $350 million in the fiscal year 2023 budget for the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District, which Matlin calls a game-changer.
“When you’re recruiting sayin’ you know, we have the funds for it. Now. It’s just a matter of getting the timeline done. And then you know, that we want to see as a shovel in the ground and then you can point it and it’s going it’s happening,” Matlin said.
The pandemic took $8 to 10 million in projected revenue away from the department, which Matlin said has left athletics with a $6 million dollar deficit.
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“We’re looking to trending in a much better place right now,” Matlin said. “You can just see from our way our ticket sales are going, donors are going, our sponsorships. Even getting some support from the legislature which is great and very appreciative. I think next year, we’re headed in a very positive financial direction. And we’re just looking forward to having fans to every game and concessions.”