A Bad Idea To Cut Stadium Funds

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 09, 2011
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It was interesting observing the NFL Pro Bowl. By any standard of measurement, it was a huge success — no matter what the uninformed believe — not only for the NFL, but for the people of Hawaii and our struggling economy.

Several weeks before the Pro Bowl hit town, our governor, following his State of the State message, said that he was going to redirect most all of the funds that had been assigned to maintenance of Aloha Stadium. Not one word of defense or praise was heard for those who keep the stadium functioning so well.

It was shameful, because our political leaders don’t seem to understand what’s going on. What they are witnessing is a very successful industry in one its finest moments. Aloha Stadium is a dream palace — a place where young and old alike go to dream about all sorts of wonderful things.

Sports in Hawaii has grown into a very powerful industry. Every major industry in Hawaii was once a growth industry. The problem is there are some people riding the wave of growth enthusiasm.

The University of Hawaii has showed Hawaii’s fierce pride to the world many times over the years at Aloha Stadium. Still, there are the critics who want to either tear it down, let some else manage it or both.

They are wrong.

The biggest problem faced by those who manage Aloha Stadium is ignorance about how a state facility is run for the benefit of the taxpayers. If the stadium is run correctly, it will generate enough revenue to keep the facility in good shape without requesting additional funds from the Legislature.

The reason growth is threatened, slowed or stopped is not because the market is saturated. It is because of management. The failure is at the top — the executives responsible for it, in the last analysis, are those who deal with self-serving political aims and policies.

The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passengers and freight transportation declined. Simply put, they believed they were in the railroad business, when in fact they were in the transportation business. They were product-oriented instead of customer-oriented. Another good example is Hollywood barely escaping being totally ravished by television. The large movie studios, because of their own self-inflicted myopia, defined their business incorrectly. They weren’t in the movie business, they were in the entertainment business. Today TV is bigger than the narrowly defined movie business. What our sports industry could really use is a shot of managerial inventiveness and skill, topped off with some imagination and audacity.

This is not the time to stop improving Aloha Stadium. Our sports industry is riding a wave of excellence. Now is not the time to withdraw support or revenues.

Aloha Stadium is a gold mine for Hawaii in more ways than one. If you want to think out of the box for a minute, try this: The state of Hawaii locks the stadium down, constructs several condominium high rises on the diamondhead side of the stadium, with the penthouse floors serving as sky boxes. The lower floors would be managed by the UH Tourism and Hospitality Department. Visiting teams could be booked right at the stadium. When WAC teams come to town, they wouldn’t need to be housed in Waikiki.

And while they’re at it, they could give the stadium manager and his staff a warm mahalo for a marvelous job of getting the stadium ready for the Pro Bowl after a very successful UH season, the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl — none of which would have been possible without Aloha Stadium.

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