City releases master plan to renovate Neal S. Blaisdell Center

Neal S. Blaisdell Arena

The city is planning a major overhaul of the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.

Officials released Monday a Blaisdell Center Master Plan Feasibility Study and Conceptual Land Use Plan, which calls for the iconic arena and concert hall to be retained and renovated, while a new exhibition hall with added features would replace the existing one.

The plan is the result of nearly two years of studies by a consultant team, interviews with community leaders, site users and other key stakeholders, as well as a community workshop that was attended by more than 170 participants. Public input was solicited via an interactive website.

There’s talk of renaming the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena after Tom Moffatt.

The legendary concert and special events promoter died on Monday, Dec. 12, from prostate cancer. He was 85 years old.

A city council resolution introduced Monday suggests renaming the arena or Waikiki Shell in honor of Moffatt and his contributions to Hawaii’s entertainment industry.

The city council is expected to hear the measure next month.

The city says the center will remain largely intact, but with a number of changes that will make it what they say will be a venue on par with the great civic centers around the world.

“The Blaisdell Center is already a gathering place and we want to enhance that we want to create more opportunities and reasons to be here,” said city Dept. of Enterprise director Guy Kaulukukui. “What we want to do is do what they did in 1964 is to create what we have here and do a 21st century state-of-the-art facility to enhance the experience for performance as well as for visitors.”

The city also says the structures are in good condition but the exhibition hall does have a number of issues including poor acoustics, varying ceiling heights, and not enough food and beverage space.

In addition to upgrading the buildings themselves, parking and traffic flow will change. Victoria Street, which now ends at South King Street, will go all the way to Kapiolani Boulevard, and parking could grow by 500 spaces.

“So increasing parking to handle our monthly and daily parking it was very important to consider as well as to accommodate more parking for events,” said Kaulukukui.

As part of the feasibility study, three alternatives for the 52-year-old center were explored that ranged from maintaining the current facilities to replacing them with new venues and uses.

Plan: City and County of Honolulu
Plan: City and County of Honolulu

“We started this process with no preconceived ideas about what would be on the site for the next 50 years,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “We quickly learned that the Arena, Concert Hall and Exhibition Hall are all critical to the quality of life on Oahu and have no parallels in our community. These facilities mean so much to so many people and bring back cherished memories, whether it’s the Elvis concert, graduations or sporting events. We look forward to improving the Blaisdell for many more generations of Hawaii residents.”

With the feasibility study completed, the city will soon begin to develop a detailed site plan and supporting studies.

The plan will include a refined conceptual site plan with open spaces, plazas, site amenities, water features, and new street connections; and conceptual architectural plans for the Concert Hall and Arena renovations, new Exhibition Hall, a new rehearsal hall and performance facility, and a new café and ticketing building.

The city says it would give at least a two year notice before any closures took place to make way for construction. Right now, work on the project could get started as early as 2019.

The initial cost estimate is between $300 million and $400 million.

Click here for more information.

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