Hawaii Governor David Ige Approves $400 Million for Stadium Project
by Ryan Lanier, The WasteWatcher, Citizens Against Government Waste, July 20, 2022
Despite the long history of wasteful stadium projects around the U.S., Hawaii will soon have a new stadium constructed at taxpayer expense. Under the fiscal year 2022-2023 budget signed by Gov. David Ige (D), the state will provide $400 million for the construction of a stadium in the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District (NASED) in Halawa to replace Aloha Stadium, home to the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football team and numerous sports and entertainment events. In addition to the new stadium, which will seat 35,000 instead of Aloha Stadium’s capacity of 50,000, the NASED will provide funding for housing and retail development.
Whether Gov. Ige would support the stadium project remained up in the air while he considered line-item vetoes to the legislature’s budget. According to state Sen. Glenn Wakai (D-SD 15), there was a “50-50 chance” that the governor would reject the measure. Gov. Ige has previously called for refurbishing Aloha Stadium rather than funding a replacement.
Funding for the NASED was approved two years after Aloha Stadium was condemned due to its deteriorating condition. During its 45 years in operation, the stadium hosted a variety of events including minor league baseball, college football, concerts, and the National Football League’s Pro Bowl.
Although it has been billed as income generator, Hawaii’s NASED project promises to join similar stadium and sports developments at high school, collegiate, and professional sports venues that fail to generate the promised revenue. Decades of studies have shown that publicly financed stadiums, even those that include housing and retail projects, do not bring in enough money to offset public investments. Even if the NASED stadium is used to host a wide array of events from sports to concerts, it will not bring in enough money to cover the initial expenses or future maintenance costs.
Rather than celebrate Gov. Ige’s decision not to veto the stadium funding, Hawaiians should keep careful watch on the project to ensure that further subsidies and cost overruns do not increase the costs borne by taxpayers. As localities across the country continue to invest in wasteful stadium projects, Aloha state taxpayers may become the latest to say aloha to millions of dollars to pay for a project that will not deliver on its promises.