Bill error prove (costly) for Hawaii project

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Aloha Stadium update July 2020 Image: Aloha Stadium

A bill key to the progress of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District suffered an 11th-hour death at the State Legislature, which is sure to delay the project for at least a year and shoot up already-escalating costs, lawmakers said recently.

The Crawford Architects-led New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District (NASED) is a high priority public infrastructure project for the people of Hawaii in US. It will transform the stadium and surrounding area into a vibrant sports and entertainment district and will be anchored by the stadium, hotel, retail, office and residential.

The 50,000-capacity stadium, which opened in 1975 as the new home of the University of Hawaii’s Rainbow Warriors American football team, is due to be replaced by a new venue – Aloha Stadium – which had been targeted to open in September 2023.

State Senator Glenn Wakai (D, Pearl Harbor-Kalihi) termed it “a fumble on the one yard line” and the State Comptroller called it a “monumental error.”

Senate Bill 2940 was to have transferred the reins of the development into the hands of the Aloha Stadium Authority from the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

The State had earmarked $350 million toward the project which had been targeted to debut in September 2023.

But Senator Kai Kahele (D, Hilo) objected because a snag in the wording of the bill, which was intended to allow the State to grant 99-year leases on the 98-acre Halawa footprint that the current stadium sits in, inadvertently would have also opened up other areas under the jurisdiction of Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) to expanded leases.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) is a State agency that was established to supplement traditional community renewal methods by promoting and coordinating public and private sector community development.

In a letter to key lawmakers, Curt Otaguro, State Comptroller and Head of the Department of Accounting and General Services stated, “I apologize for this monumental error and for the confusion and inconvenience caused to the Senate membership at this late stage. This error was under the unique and unexpected challenges to our bill review and drafting caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect on this legislative session, even as we were attempting to ensure we were as thorough as possible, and in no means was it inserted because of other hidden agendas or outside influences.”

State Senator Donovan Dela Cruz (D Mililani Mauka-Waipo Acres) said the bill has died because there was no agreement in time for at least a 24-layover preceding the legislative session adjournment.

It would take action by Governor of Hawaii David Ige to call a special session, but lawmakers said that was not likely.

Cruz added, “I think it (the bill’s death) is unfortunate. Beside the fact that we need this project for our economy now that tourism is down…it (the project) is going to cost more.”

Aloha Stadium had been poised to undergo a total transformation after Governor Ige in July 2019 signed into law a bill to provide $350m (£276.9m/€309.5m) in funding for a new stadium development.

The Bill had been looked upon as the last significant piece of stadium legislation before the State began targeting bids for a public-private partnership in the development of NASED. The State had been seeking to issue a request for proposals from priority-listed developers in the month of July, from a list of six that responded to a May 26 request for qualifications.

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