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Design & Development

Aloha Stadium project set for change in approach

Featured image credit: Crawford Architects

Governor of Hawai‘i, Josh Green, has said a new request for proposals (RFP) process will be launched for the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District (NASED) project after stating his administration will not proceed with current plans owing to cost concerns.

The original NASED vision had called for the design, construction, financing, and maintenance of a new Aloha Stadium and a prescribed minimum surrounding area with supporting infrastructure, including the demolition of the current venue and redeveloping that part of the site.

An associated real estate project has outlined the development of approximately 70 acres of the NASED site to deliver a mixed-use, live-work-play-thrive entertainment district. Development is expected to occur over 20-plus years and include residential market and affordable housing options, hotels, office, retail, commercial, and entertainment uses.

The stadium project was due to be delivered via a public-private-partnership (P3) between the State of Hawai‘i and a private developer selected through a two-stage procurement process conducted by the state.

A feature of the P3 arrangement was that the developer for the stadium project would be responsible for maintaining the facility for 30 years, precluding the deferred maintenance issues of the past, providing long-term assurance that the stadium will perform well, and returning the stadium to the state at the end of the term in good working order.

Aloha Stadium first opened in 1975, but has been closed for events since December 2020 due to chronic rust problems and deferred maintenance. The new Aloha Stadium was due to be downsized from the existing stadium’s capacity of 50,000 seats to a capacity of 35,000.

However, Green has now said his administration is concerned at the findings of a cost-analysis report conducted by Goldman Sachs, the state’s financial consultant on the project. The Honolulu Civil Beat website said the report states that taxpayers could be liable for an additional $400m (£333.8m/€377m) if the state pursues the P3 model. This comes with $350m having already been set aside for the venture.

“The cost of our money as we contributed to private developers would be too high,” Green told the Civil Beat yesterday (Thursday). “It’s just too large.”

The future of Aloha Stadium has been the subject of long-running debate in Hawai‘i. The P3 plan had been in the works for two years when former Governor David Ige changed approach in September, opting instead to use the $350m state funding to develop a stand-alone stadium utilising a more traditional design-­build contract.

Green in December had stated his commitment to restarting the public-private pathway, but has now pivoted to the stance adopted by his predecessor stating he and Finance Director Luis Salaveria couldn’t accept the potential for cost overruns.

Green told the Civil Beat that he now wants to conduct development in two phases. The first would see the state spend the $350m already appropriated to construct the stadium, before then pursuing development of the entertainment district.

Another RFP will go out “in the near future” under the new strategy for constructing the stadium, Green said. That will include demolition of the old Aloha Stadium and construction of a new “modest” stadium.

“It will be smaller than some people want but at least it will get built,” said Green, adding that the state could add more seats at a later date if it chooses to.