State officials met with USL Championship leaders in Tampa to discuss placing a team in a potential new Aloha Stadium, currently under debate in Hawaii.
The Hawaii Stadium Authority is proposing that the crumbling Aloha Stadium be torn down and replaced by a New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District (NASED) featuring a replacement stadium. Besides any potential pro teams, the stadium could also host a USL Championship team, as the authority is seeking events and tenants past the University of Hawaii football games. The district would feature the new Aloha Stadium as well as a 20-acre development led by a private investor. It’s not yet a done deal, as there’s been a move by the university to argue against a new Aloha Stadium and instead commit to a new 22,000-27,000-seat on-campus stadium. The objection: it won’t be until later in 2022 for demolition of Aloha Stadium to be demolished, meaning the Rainbows football program would need to wait years for a new facility. Work on an on-campus stadium could begin next year.
Still, if this development moves forward, USL Championship is interested, per KHON:
“We are very, very interested in Hawaii because of the community-driven nature that our clubs instill in their markets,” USL Vice President of Club Expansion Dan Holman said. “The fact obviously with the NASED project is massive, we are very much interested in transformational projects.”
Hawaii State Senator Glenn Wakai hopes more tenants in the NASED can help with finances. The project is cleared by the state legislature for $350 million. Currently, $170 million in general obligation bonds has been allocated.
“If we just say ‘build the stadium for six football games,’ it’s going to be a very difficult facility to finance,” Sen. Wakai said. “So, we’re trying to do our due diligence now to make the stadium attractive to say that, you know, developer you come in; we have three top-notch tenants ready to come in because we cannot be chasing one-off events where the Cowboys and Rams game was a one-time event.”
There certainly challenges to running a pro team in Hawaii, with the biggest one travel costs. MiLB gave up on Triple-A baseball at Aloha Stadium due to costs, and while USL does cover travel in some situations (as in USL League One), it’s hard to see a Hawaii team as a long-term project without travel subsidies.