The House Tuesday gave final approval to a bill that would transfer Aloha Stadium to the University of Hawaii. The bill now moves to the Senate.
The Honolulu stadium — currently owned by the state government — hosts University of Hawaii football home games, as well as many other events, the annual Pro Bowl football all-star game, and a regular swap meet in its parking lot.
The bill would create a University of Hawaii stadium corporation that would manage and operate the facility, with the goal of generating net income to be transferred to the university’s college athletics program.
The conditions of the university’s sports facilities became an issue when popular football coach June Jones cited them as one of the reasons he quit to take a job at Southern Methodist University after a successful season that saw the team qualify for one of the Bowl Championship Series games.
The bill would give the corporation authority to sell naming rights to the stadium. The corporation would not be permitted to issue revenue bonds, but state lawmakers would have the authority to issue general obligation bonds for the stadium and determine if they should be reimbursed with general funds or the stadium corporation’s funds.
Existing GOs issued for the stadium would continue to be repaid out of the general fund.
The bill passed despite contradictory testimony at a finance committee hearing.
University of Hawaii president David McClain said he opposes the measure in its current form because it makes the university system responsible for upkeep of the aging facility.
“Adding this liability to the already-large capital renewal and deferred maintenance burden of the university would not be economically feasible and would be to the detriment of the university,” he said in written testimony.
Kevin Chong Kee, chairman of the current state stadium authority, said he opposed the bill because it would divert money to the university that is needed for the stadium, adding that its current revenues don’t cover the cost of needed repairs.