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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 27, 2008

Hawaii stadium to get $185M overhaul; UH expands pay-per-view package

 •  11 of 13 Warriors games may be on pay-per-view

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

In the initial phase of the project, workers will use stabilizing struts to "stiffen" the eight pedestrian bridges that connect the corners of the stadium.

Photos by GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Since opening in 1975 at a cost of $32 million, Aloha Stadium has been plagued by expenses for costly repairs, including $80 million for rust treatment between 1985 and 1995.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A later phase of the project could include the addition of 12 suites across the 50-yard line of the middle level of the stadium.

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The estimated $185 million renovation of Aloha Stadium is expected to transform the rusting, 33-year-old facility into a "new stadium," a state official said.

"It'll be just like when you walked into the stadium the first time," state Comptroller Russ Saito said yesterday after a stadium improvements presentation at the monthly Aloha Stadium board meeting.

"The seats were all shiny. The colors were bright. The steps you walked on were all solid. All of that will be refurbished. It will be like a new stadium."

The renovation project aimed at extending the lifespan of the 50,000-seat multi-purpose facility for another 30 years will entail several phases.

The initial stage is aimed at fixing "the health and safety issues of the stadium," according to Stadium Authority Chairman Kevin Chong Kee.

Later stages, aimed at enhancing "the spectator experience" and generating revenue, will explore adding luxury suites and several other amenities.

Saito said the project will start in March, with major work being done between the end of the NFL's 2009 Pro Bowl and the University of Hawai'i football season. The makeover is expected to be completed in 2013.

"The roof deck is the most corroded and the one most in need of attention," said Saito, whose state Department of Accounting and General Services manages the stadium.

Other highlights of the initial project include strengthening roof supports, controlling rust, replacing seats, repairing the parking lot, stabilizing pedestrian bridges and recommendations to add at least eight elevators and 300 women's toilets.

Since opening in 1975 at a cost of $32 million, the state's largest facility has been dogged by costly repairs and lawsuits. From 1985 to 1995, rust treatment cost $80 million. By comparison, building a new stadium will cost an estimated $278 million in 2005 dollars, according to a study released yesterday by SSFM International, and Wiss, Janney, Elstner and Associates Inc.

In coming years, more than a dozen suites and club seating could be added, according to the study.

New private elevators would whisk fans to suites, which will "enhance the spectator experience to a level on par with other venues of its size and, hence, its revenue-producing potential, thereby offsetting future maintenance costs," according to a state environmental assessment draft.

The study explored the idea of adding 12 suites across the 50-yard line of the middle level of the stadium. The suites will have a total of 248 seats. The upgrades will displace 308 upper-field seats along the 50-yard line, according to the study.

Since the stadium will be locked in football configuration, another proposal calls for adding an enclosed lounge on the four open corners of the stadium. This "loge level corner and sideline club addition" will have 960 total seats.

Another proposal will be the "sideline club lounge and amenities addition," which will have 1,454 padded seats.

The report also suggested converting the baseball press box into a super suite with 270 seats. It was unclear if more stadium seats would have to be displaced for this project to be completed.

The price of a luxury seat or suite has not been determined, according to Saito. He said that the seats will be built if there's demand for them, and added the decision will need to be made before 2011, when work on grandstands begins.

Chong Kee said he wasn't opposed to luxury seating, but stressed the structural improvements will take priority over the seating amenities.

"I want the stadium to be structurally fit," he said.

The study also examined the stadium's stability of grandstands and bridges during raucous games. Workers used motion-sensing equipment called accelerometers to measure vibrations of the grandstands during the Fresno State-UH football game on Nov. 10, 2007. The study said the stadium's movements were "enough so that patrons can find vibrations to be uncomfortable," but the effects were "not structurally significant."

"The vibration is perceived to be a lot larger than it is," Saito said. "Its like .01 inch of displacement. It's safe."

Starting next year, workers will "stiffen" the eight pedestrian bridges that connect the corners of the stadium. The plan will attach stabilizing struts to the walkways, Saito said.

The stadium will hold a public hearing on the project on June 30 at 7 p.m. at the facility's hospitality room.

Reach Brandon Masuoka at bmasuoka@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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