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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 24, 2008

$5M donation offered to fix Cooke Field

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The renovation and expansion of Cooke Field could be boosted by a $5 million gift from the Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation.

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The Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation has offered what is believed to be the largest gift in University of Hawai'i athletic history, approximately $5 million to help underwrite a $10 million renovation and expansion of aging Cooke Field.

The gift offer comes at an opportune time for UH, which has made the upgrading of Cooke Field in the Manoa campus quarry a priority and is seeking a donor to drive the project.

The offer is scheduled to go before the board of regents at the May 29-30 meetings, according to the agenda released yesterday.

If approved, UH hopes to gather matching funds from a mix of public and private sources. The university has been assured a $1.5 million state appropriation, meaning approximately $3.5 million would still have to be raised, according to people familiar with the planning.

Some details remain to be finalized and a press conference could be held next week.

UH-Manoa spokesman Gregg Takayama declined to confirm details, saying, "We have agreed not to talk about it until an appropriate time."

The remodeled facility, which could be finished in 2010 or 2011, would be renamed the "Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex," and could be used for track and field, soccer, football and intramural activities.

UH officials have talked of expanding grandstands, adding locker rooms and possibly offices for track and soccer teams. They also have suggested opening it up for use by high schools.

The eroding condition of the facility has been cited as an argument for improvements in athletic facilities. Complaints by former quarterback Colt Brennan drew attention to the issue, and ultimately legislators were prompted to tour the athletic facilities.

UH currently prohibits use of the weed-infested track infield for safety reasons. That has meant track and field teams have had to use soccer practice fields for some events, and the football team, which plays its home games on artificial turf at Aloha Stadium, has practices on natural grass across Lower Campus Road.

The Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation, Hawai'i's third largest charitable foundation accepting grant applications, was established in 1967 as a private 501(c)(3) organization. Ching, a local developer and UH fan, died in 1985. He has given millions to Catholic schools and organizations.

He also developed Kukui Gardens, which recently sold for $131 million.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com.