Cheers For Stadium’s Ed Hayashi
Wednesday - August 17, 2005
It was a long time ago, but I remember how excited I was when I learned from friends that the state of Hawaii was planning to build a “state of the art” stadium. It was 1967 and the powers that be had decided the old “Termite Palace” had to be torn down.
They had all kinds of functions there, the boiled peanuts were the best and nobody complained about parking or the food. The Honolulu Stadium was primarily the home of the Hawaiian Islanders. The next big draw was high school football and the Turkey Day doubleheader to crown the high school champions.
In those days, the University of Hawaii football team played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The high school games were held on the weekends. It stayed like that until 1968 when the UH program caught fire with several great teams, bolstered by a NCAA rule that allowed UH to accept players from other teams without penalty. This meant they could play immediately. A half-dozen players came from the Air Force Academy, several from USC and other PAC-10 schools. It was a blessing to attendance. UH got the weekends to handle the bigger crowds.
There aren’t many people now who were around then, but those who were close to the plans for the new “state of the art” stadium will tell you the major thrust of the design was to accommodate the Hawaiian Islanders. Football was second, and concerts were a distance third in importance. People who say it was built for UH are misinformed.
I was fortunate to serve on an ad hoc committee that researched contingencies for the new stadium. It took years of haggling, and the politics were brutal. Back then people believed that you had to have at least a Triple-A baseball team in order for the stadium to break even. After serving on the Stadium Authority for eight years I can better appreciate now why they thought like that in 1968.
If Aloha Stadium was built in just a football configuration, it would have cost around $8 million. To build the moving stands for baseball and a concert configuration added another $30 million to the cost. To make matters worse, the stadium has been cursed from the beginning by a construction lie. The decision to use steel instead of wood was based on promises by the contractors that the steel would not rust and weaken; instead it would rust a golden brown “patina” and get stronger in the process.
The purpose of having boards and commissions is to de-politicize the day-to-day operations of government programs and agencies. Appointments are supposed to be made according to expertise and not because of friendship with a political candidate. Appointees are usually not government employees. A board or commission is not supposed to promulgate a political agenda as some sports writers speculate. Appointees are trustees of the public’s welfare. The authority takes an oath of office to protect the public interest. They establish policy and an administrator that they hire and evaluate to carry out their wishes. Administrators do not set policy, they take orders.
It is interesting to note that the current administrator, Mr. Eddie Hayashi, has probably never heard a word of praise in his tenure. Yet, if you check the record of his accomplishments, you will find he has probably been more successful than any of the former stadium managers. Said another way, he has been almost the perfect stadium manager for several simple reasons. First, his staff, employees and volunteers love him. Second, he can handle the Legislature’s tendency to poke their noses in where they shouldn’t. And lastly, he has a tolerance for ambiguous situations.
When you have the governor, lieutenant governor and UH president all attending authority meetings, and pleas from selfserving individuals to make Aloha Stadium more “user friendly,” and a couple of welltimed sports editorials about the poorly run stadium, you can feel Mr. Hayashi’s efforts over the last 15 years have not been appreciated. And they are considerable, if you check the record.
To Mr. Hayashi and his devoted staff, I recommend they stand their ground and make the whining tenants, vendors and politically motivated agitators follow the rules to the letter. If you are seeking to overthrow the Stadium Authority or its administrator, I suggest you read Chapter 109 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes. Also important, HRS 91, specifically Section 91-3 that provides how to change rules according to the law. A little heads-up for new authority members: It takes 23 deliberate steps to change a rule or repeal one.
And what about the concert configuration? They haven’t used it in years, because the setup cost for the stage, etc., almost guarantees the promoter would not break even. Ironically, all three configurations seat 50,000, even though they are rarely if ever used. Point is, the public didn’t need them in the beginning.
I surely hope that Mr. Hayashi and his staff don’t have a cardiac attack reading an article that is congratulatory of their years of devotion. After 15 years, they deserve it. And to the new authority members, be quiet for a year, learn the rules and be slow to criticize and quick to praise. It’s a tough place to work.
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