Could there be a new Blaisdell Center? City weighs options

Neal S. Blaisdell Arena

It’s a place that’s home to trade shows, sporting events and concerts, but now, the future of the Neal S. Blaisdell Center is up in the air.

Is it possible we could see a new arena in the coming years here?

“I guess it’s possible,” said Blaisdell Center project manager Renee Espiau. “We are looking at sort of all the different alternatives right now.”

What to do with the Blaisdell Center? It’s a question many people have asked, and a question the city says it is trying to figure out.

“Sometimes it makes financial sense to keep it, sometimes it makes financial sense to rebuild,” said Espiau.

So what’s the issue for the center that’s been around for more than 50 years? Turns out, there are more issues than just an aging structure.

“What we’re certainly seeing is that the arena was sort of built as a sports facility, but today really functions more as an event facility,” said Espiau. “So that’s something we are looking at, how to either optimize or rebuild something new that really serves the uses that are happening there.”

While a concert is always fun, the city says the facility was not laid out to function as a concert venue.

“It’s just not meeting the needs of the people putting on events and therefore impacts the experience of the public,” said Espiau.

So what should be done?

“Well, if they’re thinking about doing anything, I would go for renovations,” said Honolulu resident Cynthia Tuttle. “If the structure is sound, then I think they should use what’s there.”

“I’ve seen quite a few concerts there over the last 40 years, so it’s kind of an icon for me,” said Honolulu resident John Donlin. “I think we have the convention center for other things, so I think the Blaisdell serves its purpose very well.”

While a final decision won’t be made on what to do for some time, the city does say there are constant maintenance needs that can add up quick.

The most recent work being done is on the roof at a cost of $500,000. The roof repair and recoating will take place over the next six weeks.

The work, which is being done by Pacific Industrial Coatings, will not interfere with any scheduled shows. Owner Bob Johnson says the hardest part of this project is safety.

“We are working 75 feet off the ground on a pitched roof, so safety is very important. We consulted with Safety Systems Hawaii and the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Hawaii Department of Labor to ensure we are taking the right safety measures,” he said.

Pacific Industrial Coatings also refurbished the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall roof in 2013.

“There is sort of an ever-growing list of maintenance needs at the facility because of its age, whether it’s something simple like paint, all the way to roof repair for leak prevention,” said Espiau.

The city plans to have more community meetings regarding the topic in the fall.

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