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Design & Development

Hawai‘i seeking out partners for Aloha Stadium reimagining

Conceptual rendering of the NASED

Featured image credit: Crawford Architects

Conceptual rendering of the NASED

Featured image credit: Crawford Architects

The Governor of Hawai‘i, Josh Green, has launched a Request for Proposals (RFP) process for the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District Project (NASED).

The procurement process intends to provide for both the new Aloha Stadium and the surrounding district to be delivered jointly as one integrated public-private-partnership project. The issuance of the RFP is the first in a three-stage procurement process which is intended to result in one or more contract(s) with a single private entity to be engaged as a master developer to masterplan and deliver the NASED.

The State of Hawai‘i has said the RFP was released as scheduled, adding that the new Aloha Stadium is on track for the targeted 2028 University of Hawai‘i (UH) football season opening. This comes after long-running efforts to deliver a new Aloha Stadium again changed course in May with Green stating that a combined public-private partnership would be pursued for both the stadium and the planned mixed-use development.

The NASED plan has been in the works since 2018 and has undergone multiple changes during this time. The previous vision, for which RFPs had been issued, was seeking separate private-sector partners for the two elements of the project.

However, Green declared that the state would pursue a unified contract with the private sector, with one partner responsible for developing, building, operating and maintaining the stadium, along with holding rights to mixed-use development in the surrounding area.

Green in March said a new RFP process would be launched for the NASED project after stating his administration would not proceed with plans at the time owing to cost concerns.

The future of Aloha Stadium has been the subject of long-running debate in Hawai‘i. A previous plan had been in the works for two years when former Governor David Ige changed approach in September 2022, opting instead to use state funding to develop a stand-alone stadium utilising a more traditional design-­build contract.

Green in December 2022 had stated his commitment to restarting the public-private pathway, but pivoted to the stance adopted by his predecessor stating he and Finance Director Luis Salaveria couldn’t accept the potential for cost overruns.

Green said yesterday (Thursday): “The release of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District RFP signals that the project is moving forward as a public-private-partnership agreement and is going to benefit our community into the future.

“Building a new modern stadium is critical, but so is housing. The NASED RFP includes 4,500 new housing units along the rail line with 70% dedicated to workforce housing and 20% for affordable housing units.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the young people of our state – it not only gives them a place to celebrate high school and UH sports, and a venue to enjoy concerts – but will also help to address our state’s housing crisis. This is something we’re going to be proud of and is going to be an anchor for us on O‘ahu.”

Key features of the RFP include:

  • The master developer will be responsible for designing, building, operating, and maintaining the new Aloha Stadium with a minimum of 25,000 seats, premium suites, a club lounge and loge boxes. They will be entitled to generate revenue to support stadium operations and maintenance by marketing the stadium during the limited number of dates not reserved by the state for UH and high school football and related events.
  • The expectation is that the master developer will design and build the new stadium using allocated state funds and, potentially, master developer funds for any additional stadium enhancements.
  • The master developer will also have the right and obligation to develop a portion of the surrounding district into a mixed-use development in line with the state’s vision of a “live, work, play, and thrive” community.
  • This approach utilises the current appropriation of $400m (£313.8m/€365.5m) and has the objective of transferring responsibility for containing construction and maintenance costs to the private sector, thereby reducing the risk and financial burden on local taxpayers.
  • The state will retain fee ownership of all the land comprising the NASED site. The state will also own the new Aloha Stadium and all of the district infrastructure improvements.

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

The release of the RFP follows a market sounding process that began in June to gauge interest and elicit feedback from prospective offerors.

“We were very excited with the interest expressed by potential partners during the market sounding,” said Brennon Morioka, Stadium Authority chair. “We received responses from some world-class teams, and our team worked very hard to address the issues raised during the process.”

The NASED team’s continued diligence also included an updated financial analysis to assess the project’s financial feasibility. While “some financial challenges” are said to remain, the team said it is confident that the “progressive” procurement is well-structured to resolve any challenges with the offerors.

“NASED will benefit our community far into the future,” added Morioka. “In addition to attracting world-class sporting and entertainment events, NASED will be a vibrant district that offers approximately 4,500 housing units across a range of income levels, create thousands of construction and long-term jobs for Hawai‘i residents, and bring in billions of dollars in tax revenue to the state and county.”

The deadline for proposals will be in summer 2024, with the selection of a preferred offeror targeted for autumn 2024, and final execution of an agreement targeted for summer 2025. While the new stadium is targeted for completion in 2028, the surrounding district will be developed over the next 20 to 30 years.