By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer
Conceived in controversy and christened with a curse, Aloha Stadium has been called a lot of things in its quarter-century history.
Just about everything from a "marvel" to a "white elephant."
Nobody, however, has ever called it a "gold mine."
Yet somewhere under all that rust in Halawa the University of Hawaii thinks there is a sizeable profit to be unearthed. Enough money, it envisions, to operate the stadium and still throw some sorely needed coins into the athletic departments piggy bank.
Between skeptics and the political toes that would be stepped on by such an arrangement, UHs proposal has moved as fast as the old air-cushioned stadium grandstands once did.
Now that Gov. Ben Cayetano has given support to the idea, maybe things will change and UH will become a seven-days-a-week landlord instead of a Saturday night tenant.
At a time when there is little public money available for the states only Division I-A athletic program, why not at least allow the Rainbows the opportunity to earn some, if they can?
It is an intriguing "if," but if UH can be resourceful enough to operate the stadium under the current terms and still save itself the $800,000 it has been forking over in rent, so much the better.
Thats money for scholarships, recruiting travel and coaches salaries that could be improved if UH had a stake in what it brings into Aloha Stadium as its most visible tenant.
For that is an $800,000 shot to the bottom line, about 5 percent of the UH athletic budget, that a lot of the schools the Rainbows compete against dont have to take. Only two schools in the nine-member Western Athletic Conference UH and San Jose State dont own or operate their own stadiums. Twenty-one of the 27 schools in the combined WAC, Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences have their own stadiums.
Increasingly with the Stan Sheriff Center, UH has shown it can play host to concerts, beauty pageants and other events.
Now, to hear the university tell it, there are larger untapped revenue sources to be found at Aloha Stadium as well. There are, UH maintains, significant savings to be realized by consolidating services and staffing the school and the stadium both currently provide. And there are advantages to negotiating as one entity contracts that would involve signage, concessions, cleanup, etc., for Aloha Stadium, the Stan Sheriff Center and Rainbow Stadium.
There would also be flexibility in scheduling game and parking lot hours and additional promotional opportunities since UH could share in concession and parking revenues.
The UH would be free to install field turf or another natural grass-based surface that both it and the NFL have advocated.
Of course, with opportunity comes responsibility and risk. UH would be expected to continue the relationship the stadium has with the high schools and other tenants. And, what if revenues do not meet projections? Would UH have to take money away from football or mens basketball to cover a shortfall?
At this point, UHs operation of Aloha Stadium is an idea worth a long look to see if it makes both dollars and sense.
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