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Susan Page

Figuring Ways To Save The Stadium

Aloha Stadium greets us with aloha each morning when my husband and I wake up. To us, it’s a most beloved site almost an extension of our home situated about a mile up in Aiea Heights.

When Mainland friends and family visit, they inevitably gaze from our lanai with delight at the iconic “bowl” of a structure.

“Is that the stadium the Pro Bowl is played in?” is the usual excited query, often relating a fond memory of a matchup they’ve seen on TV.

The view also packs a one-two punch.

Just beyond, a backdrop to the stadium, lies dazzling Pearl Harbor in which rests two of our nation’s most famous and honored historic sites, the Arizona Memorial and the battleship USS Missouri.

Our house is an old former sugar plantation cottage. Before we moved in, it had been a rental and was in pretty bad shape, with dry rot and termite damage throughout. So in 1984, we had to make a decision: Tear it down and build something new or remodel.

A twinge of historical nostalgia compelled us to the latter, ultimately retaining most of its original footprint as well as materials. We’ve always called it “the house that love built” for our love of this location as well as each other.

A similar decision is looming for Aloha Stadium, which originally cost $37 million to build and officially opened in September 1975, almost 40 years ago. The stadium, a yearly source of maintenance needs, is in jeopardy because of money or lack thereof.

Reminder: Hawaii is ranked in the top five of our 50 states in the worst financial pits. No matter what rosy predictions are fed to taxpayers, the state can’t pay its unfunded liabilities, specifically state retirees’ health care benefits promised by politicians who committed a crime against taxpayers.

Therefore, to meet promises that should never have been made, taxes and fees will be raised, money will be borrowed and structures such as Aloha Stadium might be no more.

Ironically, if some legislators have their way, it just may end up as the ultimate “swap meet” item.

Granted, Aloha Stadium is a money-pit conundrum. With no money set aside, how do we fund repairs, much needed extra women’s restrooms, not to mention the VIP goodies needed to attract a Super Bowl and at least keep the Pro Bowl?

Some legislators believe the 10-story-high stadium deserves the proverbial wrecking ball. Then the state-owned land could be leased to retail developers. In other words, build a big shopping mall and maybe some condos and a hotel on the site.

And, perhaps, if private funding could be found, build another more modern stadium elsewhere.

But why tear down something of both nostalgic and potential revenue value?

Especially when it would be an either/or with a new stadium taking years to complete?

A Hawaiian Airlines sponsorship afforded Aloha Stadium’s Field Turf, so why not look to major sponsors to fund the current stadium’s need and wish list?

I say privatize and give up control of this facility like other Mainland cities have done successfully.

The at-first-controversial Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas, completed in 2009, has become the gold standard in innovative design and management.

Not that Hawaii needs a $1.2 billion structure like Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones built, but with creativity and a big thinker mind-set, Aloha Stadium could be reborn into a huge attraction for all kinds of events not just football and a money-maker, not a fiscal drain.

Jones, with his business acumen, has, through inventive revenue streams, created the most financially successful NFL franchise in the league.

I say call in some successful entrepreneurs like, say, Donald Trump, who obviously thinks Hawaii is worth the investment, and brainstorm ways to not just save Aloha Stadium, but make it into something grand.

With tourism our main source of revenue, a wellthought-out stadium could become another destination next to Pearl Harbor, even house a museum and art gallery. The location is central, ideal for the majority of islanders.

My preference?

Forget the eyesore, money-draining, limiteduse $5 billion rail and let’s hang onto the “stadium that aloha built.”

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