School gets $5M donation
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Michael Tsai
The University of Hawai'i Board of Regents yesterday unanimously approved the naming of the soon-to-be-constructed Clarence T.C. Ching Athletic Complex, a reduction in ticket prices for UH athletic events, and a measure that would allow for bonuses for coaches whose individual athletes qualify for post-season competition.
The $9.7 million complex, which will replace what is now Cooke Field, is scheduled for completion in two to three years, propelled by a $5 million donation from the Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation.
UH will need to raise the balance of the funds. The state Legislature has already earmarked $1.225 million for the project.
At their monthly meeting yesterday in Kapolei, the regents approved both the donation and the renaming of the Cooke Field facility in honor of the late Clarence T.C. Ching, developer of the Kukui Gardens affordable-rental project and a diehard UH athletics supporter.
"This was a great, very enjoyable day," said Ching's brother Bernard, who attended a press conference announcing the approval along with Ching's other surviving brother, Herbert. "(Clarence) was a big fan."
The donation was the largest in history provided by the charitable foundation, and the largest the university has received specifically for its athletics program.
The ticket-price reduction had been advocated by several UH coaches and was identified as a priority by athletic director Jim Donovan shortly after he assumed the helm two months ago.
The athletic department proposed a plan in which: football tickets in the upper levels of the end zones would drop from $22 to $12 for ages 4 through high school; season-ticket packages for basketball go from $59 to $40 for UH students in the upper levels while individual tickets for upper levels drop from $22 to $18 for adults; baseball season tickets are reduced from $75 to $50; and UH students are granted free admission to the Super Rooter/Manoa Maniacs sections at volleyball matches.
Donovan said the plan will be reviewed once more before it is officially announced, likely sometime within the next three weeks. The reduced prices will be effective for the 2008-09 season.
"This allowed us to lower the minimum (cost) in tickets so we can make a family package and simplify the number of (pricing) tiers," Donovan said. "Our No. 1 source of untapped revenue are those empty seats. It's like they teach you in first-year economics: lower the price and increase demand."
Donovan said the provision on bonuses is consistent with his goal to provide "fair base pay and have fair and reasonable bonuses."
The measure allows coaches of track and field, cross country, and swimming and diving to receive bonuses, under terms of their contracts, if their individual athletes advance to NCAA tournaments or championships. Previously, only coaches of men's and women's golf and tennis were eligible for such bonuses.
The new Ching Athletic Complex is slated for 2,000 additional seats, bringing the total number of seats to as many as 3,500. It will also include two lockers rooms, a storage facility, offices, a press box and scoreboard.
"It's going to give our department a big boost," said UH football coach Greg McMackin, who attended yesterday's press conference along with baseball coach Mike Trapasso and men's basketball coach Bob Nash.
McMackin said the new field will allow his team to prepare for games played on artificial turf and help preserve the grass practice field in rainy weather.
"Aside from our great fan support, it's the first message our players have gotten that the community supports them and is looking out for them," he said.
The shoddy state of Cooke Field (originally constructed in 1915 for $1,500) and other facilities received national attention last year as the UH football team rose to prominence.
The donation grew out of talks between UH President David McClain and retired president of First Hawaiian Bank Jack Tsui, who met in January in an effort to raise funds to retain former head football coach June Jones. When Jones resigned to take over at SMU, McClain faxed Tsui a list of high-priority items, topped by the Cooke Field renovation. Tsui, who is chairman of the Ching Foundation board of directors, then put UH officials in touch with the foundation.
The Foundation had recently completed a disputed but eventually successful $130 million sale of Kukui Gardens and was looking, as Tsui said, "to get the foundation into the 21st century."
"Colt (Brennan, the former UH quarterback) brought public attention to some of the UH facilities," Tsui said. "Should we have inquired about it more? Probably. But chances are the athletic director or the administration usually brings these things to the public. I don't want to cast aspersions on (former athletic director Herman Frazier) but if the athletic director has his signals around town, we can get a lot done."
Tsui, who is also chair of Towne Development of Hawaii, said he hopes the donation will be a "transformative gift" that spurs further private-public support of UH athletics.
"Ever since I first stepped on campus, I've heard of problems that this donation will solve," said UH Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw.
Hinshaw said the facility will serve not just UH athletic teams, but intramural sports, the ROTC, the UH marching band, high school sports programs and other community groups.
Hawai'i High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya said he was pleased that high school sports will soon return to the Manoa campus. He said he hopes high school soccer and track and field championships will be held at the new facility.
Reach Michael Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.