A Bad Idea: Giving Stadium To UH

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 30, 2008
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It didn’t take the Hawaii State Legislature long to make some monumental changes in the wake of June Jones III’s departure for big bucks in Big D.

On Jan. 23, it submitted a bill, HB2429, Relating to Recreation, which has nothing to do with recreation. It has to do with creating the University of Hawaii Stadium Corporation and transferring jurisdiction of Aloha Stadium to the corporation. The bill, which was introduced Jan. 18, already has passed first reading and has been referred to committees for further action.

In summary, the bill seeks to put the stadium under UH management. For starters, the board would consist of the UH president, five members appointed by the UH Board of Regents and five members appointed by the governor. Furthermore, the bill asks that all stadium business be exempt from the administrative rules process, which means that the board will only have to place an item on its agenda and can change its mind on rents, how the swap meet is run, etc., from meeting to meeting. This means a lot of actions or inactions will get passed without really having any viable input from the general public.

The bill goes on to say that once current employees leave or retire, all employees will be exempt from civil service. So everyone, including janitors, would be appointees and not covered by any of the unions. Essentially, the board won’t have to worry about violating employees’ rights.

Aloha Stadium was originally set up in corporation form, so that it could only spend what it makes in revenue. In that respect, it is run like any other corporation. If Aloha Stadium does not generate enough revenue to maintain the facility, then it has to go beg the Legislature for money. This has happened in the past and the results were the same: sorry, no funds available.

The idea is for UH to generate more money for its athletic programs by draining all the unexpanded money left over at the stadium. It’s almost laughable that the university would be able to keep the gigantic Aloha Stadium maintained when there is no evidence or history to prove it has the expertise to do so. The best word to describe the condition of UH facilities is disrepair, as has been well reported.

Additionally, under the provisions of the proposed legislation, if the stadium falls under UH, six of the 11 voting members would be from the university. Aloha Stadium construction projects would not be included in UH projects.

Who would advocate for fixing the stadium? The board would have to, and it doesn’t have a very good record of securing funds from the Legislature. It simply doesn’t have a good track record of taking care of its facilities.

The legislators can do us all a great favor by sparing Aloha Stadium from a slow political death at the hands of incompetent athletic administrators. Aloha Stadium has a good management team, a hard-working board and many dedicated employees. HB 2429 is an insult to the stadium’s hard-working staff and management, and if UH needs to generate more revenue for its high-priced athletic executives, let them appear before the Legislature and ask for additional revenue. Aword of caution: The last time an athletic administrator appeared before a legislative investigative committee he was not received with open arms and is no longer in tow.

I think most people are sorry we lost the services of Coach Jones. However, if the legislators really want to help UH, don’t give it something that may bankrupt the athletic department, or worse. Instead, put the maintenance and repair of Aloha Stadium on the backs of Hawaii’s taxpayers. The university has free rent, money from lucrative television and radio contracts, money from logo merchandise and a ton of money from the Sugar Bowl.

I was an assistant coach when Aloha Stadium was on the drawing boards. It was a state-of-theart structure with movable stands, and was built with steel that was not supposed to rust. Well, the stands are now locked in the football configuration and our salty air has advanced the need for emergency rust-preventative treatment. Back then, it was a dream of the future. Ironically, the football program back then was housed in portable classrooms, and they floated away when the quarry (lower campus) road flooded. I used to drive out to see the “new” Aloha Stadium, thinking once it’s finished that the program would take off.

Aloha Stadium was completed in 1975, and four years later the football program got permanent facilities and a weight room to boot. Turning over the stadium to UH is not what it needs. After all, this proposed arrangement with the university is how the old Honolulu Stadium was managed. If you recall, that stadium, under UH’s maintenance plan, died a painful death by termite infestation.

It would be a good idea to leave well enough alone.

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