New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District panel echoes same message: ‘Rust doesn’t sleep’

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District (NASED) team held a video conference on Wednesday, Feb. 17, to provide an update on the plans and timeline for the project.

Aloha Stadium officials confirmed last week to the state Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism that holding fans in the venue is unsafe, barring substantial repairs. The state has invested signifiant funds to keep the existing stadium, however, the NASED team believes there is more efficiency in creating an entire district as a long-term investment.

The NASED team also believes that it is the right time to start a project of this scale in order to get earlier returns, even with the current fiscal challenges. The stadium would be just the first piece in a critical phase to get the district started, according to state comptroller Curt Otaguro.

However, Gov. David Ige challenged the NASED team to continue to explore all options. Ige has said the total cost for a new stadium is out of the state’s budget.

“Our fiscal challenges are real. So, we need to take a hard look at everything that we’re doing,” Otaguro said. “We have an obligation to all of you as well to the governor to vet all different options again to allow fans once again to the stadium.”

Otaguro, who oversees the public works division involved in the planning of the stadium, said it was always the plan to keep the stadium operational while they built a new one. The University of Hawaii is still an important part of the equation, he said. Otaguro also stressed that the stadium continues to rust away as discussions lengthen between the state and university.

“Rust doesn’t sleep” was the message the panel echoed in Wednesday’s conference.

Otaguro said he’s asked UH athletic director David Matlin to “think outside the box” if the new Aloha Stadium is not accepted. There are other possible venues that could work for football games, he said.

Public Works administrator Chris Kinimaka said, the cost to restore the standing stadium would be more than building a new structure. A redevelopment report prepared for the state in 2017 determined the cost for a full renovation of Aloha Stadium would cost more than $420 million, while a new stadium is estimated to cost $350 million.

Kinimaka said, “That figure would probably grow much more because we know the corrosion has been moving.”

Kinimaka said, the state could have more flexibility by not having to put the cost of the project upfront through a public-private partnership.

Kinimaka said, “Possible alternatives when we do P3 that can help us sustain ourselves, both immediately with construction and then deferring payment to a time when our revenues are hopefully increasing.”

The plan calls for a 35,000-seat stadium and is expected to cover 98 acres. It includes modernizing the space by building mixed-use developments, a rail station, hotels, retail centers and more. The proposed changes are an effort to improve current operations at the stadium as the financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continue.

In December, 2020, state officials released a drafted environmental impact statement detailing the project’s impacts on the surrounding environment. Hawaii residents could comment on the proposal by Feb. 8, 2021.

There are currently three bidders for the NASED project and there is no timeline for when it will be completed.

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