December 3, 2023

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After giving green light, Green hopes redeveloped Aloha Stadium could open in 2027

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Gov. Josh Green is giving the go-ahead to the multi-billion dollar redevelopment of Aloha Stadium and a surrounding entertainment district.

The decision reverses Gov. David Ige’s effort to simplify the plan by using a $350 million appropriation to build the stadium as a traditional government project.

But there are still fears the public-private partnership could get out of control.

The developer partnership was well underway in September when Ige abruptly halted the procurement process after more than $2 million had been spend on studies, reviews of development team qualifications and public input.

Ige argued that the appropriation provided enough to build the stadium without the risk and complexity of the partnership model. But on Friday, Green told Hawaii News Now that the project needs to get underway quickly to reap its potential benefits.

“It’s always been my approach to bring the private sector,” Green said.

“We don’t get anything if we don’t begin — we don’t get the downstream revenues from retail, we don’t get the taxes, we get nothing, we don’t even get use of the land.”

The concept for the roughly 90-acre Halawa site has been to have private developers help finance and build the stadium, in return for the right to develop entertainment, retail and housing around it.

The project entails potentially billions of dollars in investment over 20 years.

“I also want new jobs for people and I want this to be a venue where people want to travel to internationally,” Green said.

Adding the district could attract international sporting events that appeal to visitors as well as providing a stadium needed for local sports and the University of Hawaii football team.

Before Ige stopped the process, the state had already chosen three competing development teams, according the state Public Works Administrator Chris Kinimaka.

“Our short list of respondents are going to have the opportunity now to go ahead and look at the requirements and put their best proposals together,” Kinimaka said.

He met with the Stadium Authority and key cabinet members Thursday, Kinimaka said, so that every agency involved would be able to provide guidance and feedback as the project moves forward.

Green wants to get a request for proposals out next month to the three teams.

“I am buying us 18 months bringing this forward,” Green said. “That’s really why I brought people together yesterday.”

He said he told them he wanted as much affordable housing as possible folded into the plan which currently anticipates about 4,000 units — mostly priced for working families, according to Kinimaka.

She said exactly how much affordable housing is included will be up to what developers can finance and still make a profit.

“That’s where we partner with developers and see how much closer we can get to bigger numbers,” she said.

Among those with doubts about the ambitious plan are Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke, who pushed for the simplified plan during this year’s legislative session as House Finance Chair, and House Speaker Scott Saiki who said, “I don’t want the stadium to turn into another rail project with cost overruns paid by taxpayers. There is no guaranty the cost of the stadium will be fixed and limited.”

Also unclear is the cost of water and sewer infrastructure.

Green pledged to keep a handle on taxpayer costs and the timeline.

“I am a new kind of governor, we have had some successes I do work with the private folks pretty well,” citing his work promoting private developers building housing for homeless residents.

He said he believed 25,000-seat stadium, with expansion capability, could open in 2027.

For the University of Hawaii, the sooner the stadium can be replaced, the better. Without a world-class stadium, it’s tougher to recruit top athletes.

Meanwhile, the university is expanding the capacity at Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex on the Manoa campus to about 17,000 — enough to meet the NCAA guidelines for Division One football programs.