A new Aloha Stadium is expected for the 2026 season
The University of Hawaii’s new home is slowly coming to fruition
Hawaii will continue to play home games at Ching Field until project is complete
The University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are getting incrementally closer to a new Aloha Stadium. On July 7, Gov. David Ige signed off on a $400 million dollar New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District Budget (NAESD) budget, effectively green lighting a new stadium in Halawa, a suburb of Honolulu.
“I’m excited—as a graduate of the University of Hawaii and a proud fan,” Ige said to KHON2. “I’m really excited because it is, for the first time, the legislature embracing the full cost of the stadium and it will create a great terrific home for the Rainbow Warriors.”
$350 million will come directly from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and the other $50 million will come from the Stadium Development Special Fund. The budget includes funds for an entertainment district and real estate development at the Halawa site.
With Gov. Ige’s signature, a timeline for the stadium’s completion can begin to take shape. The new stadium, which is tentatively expected to be completed in time for the 2026 season, will be built on the existing Aloha Stadium, which still needs to be demolished. A developer will need to be selected as well. Both are expected to be completed by late 2023 or early 2024, per KHON2. Construction is slated to take approximately two to three years.
“Football is the program that generates most of the revenue that supports all of the other sports and with that money in hand, we can start to make a very specific plan to develop a great new stadium and give the Rainbow Warriors a great place to play,” said University of Hawaii President David Lassner to KHON2.
The current Aloha Stadium ceased operations in December 2020, citing financial difficulties due to the pandemic. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported in 2019 that the stadium need roughly $30 million in repairs.
“The stadium facility has been in dire need of significant repair and maintenance for many years. The stadium authority has considered repairing, upgrading, and replacing the existing facility to optimize the public’s enjoyment and ensure public safety. Redeveloping, renovating, or improving these public lands in a manner that will provide suitable recreational, residential, educational, and commercial areas, where the public can live, congregate, recreate, attend schools, and shop, as part of a thoughtfully integrated experience, is in the best interests of the State and its people,” the Hawaii state legislature reported in 2019.
The 50,000-seat stadium was home to the Rainbow Warriors for over 40 years. It was also the longtime host of the Pro Bowl, various bowl games, state championships and concerts.
A possible barrier to the new Aloha Stadium’s completion is the upcoming governor’s race in Hawaii. During a June candidate forum hosted by the Star-Advertiser, U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, a Democratic candidate for governor, said he would scrap the new Aloha Stadium plan as governor.
“You are not serious about housing and affordable housing on the island of Oahu if you want to build a stadium in Halawa,” Kahele said. “As governor of Hawaii, I oppose building a stadium in Halawa.”
Kahele proposed that 10,000 homes be built on the existing Aloha Stadium site to address the affordable housing issue instead.
Hawaii’s primary is scheduled for August 13.
According to a July 6 Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll, Lt. Gov. Josh Green has 48% of the vote compared to Rep. Kahele with 16% and businesswoman Vicky Cayetano with 15%.
In the wake of USC’s and UCLA’s surprise move to the Big Ten, many schools, like the University of Hawaii, have been left with questions regarding the future landscape of college athletics.. Will the Pac-12 merge with the Big-12 or will they look to fill their conference with Mountain West schools?
While there has been no conclusive answers to these questions, some have wondered if Hawaii’s current stadium situation could influence which conference the school ultimately ends up at. Rich Miano, former UH standout and current color analyst for UH home games on Spectrum, explained the importance of getting the ball rolling on a new Aloha Stadium.
“When you look at the college football landscape you would need a crystal ball and then some to figure out if it is going to be the autonomous five, is it going to be two super power conferences,” Miano said. “But one thing that is very important for the UH is to try and position themselves so they do not be left out of this and with a stadium, you would think you would have a much better chance.”
In terms of the remaining Pac-12 schools, the smallest stadium, by capacity, is Oregon St.’s Reser Stadium, which will seat approximately 26,000 during the 2022 season. After renovations are complete, Reser Stadium will seat between 34,000 and 39,000 in 2023. The next smallest is Washington St.’s Martin Stadium which seats approximately 33,000.
Until the new Aloha Stadium is complete, the Rainbow Warriors will continue to play home football games on campus at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex, which seats around 9,000. It was reported that the UH had plans to expand capacity to 15,000 but because of a materials shortage, those plans were put on hold.
Capacity for the new Aloha Stadium is listed as a “minimum of 30,000” based upon “historical and projected events and attendances, in conjunction with the availability payment cost projections.”
While seating capacity will not be a deciding factor in conference realignment decisions, it’s hard to imagine the Pac-12 looking favorably on a program with a home football stadium that seats less than many FCS schools.
Still, as State Sen. Glenn Wakai theorized to KHON2, if the Pac-12 were to add teams, Hawaii’s current stadium situation could pose a barrier.
“If it ends up being the Pac-4 they’re going to need to add some teams, could Hawaii make a play for that in 2025 and out, at this point, no but if we get a stadium I think that only helps in the argument to invite us,” Wakai said.
The Rainbow Warriors, led by new head coach Timmy Chang, will welcome Vanderbilt University to the island on August 27 to open the season.