New million-dollar sports venture already paying off for Hawaii

Losing out on the Pro Bowl this past year meant losing out on tens of millions of dollars for our economy.

Now we’ve learned there’s a new venture that’s already attracting other sporting events to Hawaii.

We got an exclusive first look at the new features the state has to market, and how your money is being used to make it happen.

It may not be a field of dreams, but for the Hawaii Convention Center, the new investment represents a chance to court new business.

Dozens of new regulation volleyball and basketball courts, along with an NCAA- and NBA-approved basketball court, are the newest additions to a facility which turns 20 years old next year.

“We’re super excited to be getting into the sports market. This is a game that we were not involved in or participating in, and this is a new market segment that we feel will certainly bring offshore business to the state of Hawaii and bring hotel room nights to our hotel partners,” said Teri Orton, Hawaii Convention Center general manager.

Orton says the new courts cost little more than a million dollars, but thanks in part to a volleyball tournament featuring dozens of teams from here and the mainland happening this weekend, they’re already paying for themselves.

“With these two tournaments that we put on the books in the last 12 months, we’ve already generated more than $1.3 million in tax revenue, so in essence, we’ve kind of payback the courts in the first year,” Orton said.

Completed in 1998 at a cost of $200 million, the convention center lost an average of $3.5 million a year before finally turning its first profit ever in 2016, when it banked $615,000.

Orton says the fully portable courts represent a completely new potential revenue stream that has yet to be tapped.

“In total, we have the ability to lay out, compassing all of our exhibition halls, 28 volleyball courts, 19 basketball courts, 11 indoor soccer courts, so this kind of opens the door to not only volleyball and basketball, but really any indoor sport,” she said.

With inquiries already pouring in from across the country, Orton says the new courts are already proving to be a perfect shot.

“The biggest feedback that we got was people wanted to come here and hold tournaments, but the biggest drawback was the cost to ship the courts. So I thought, let’s eliminate that obstacle, purchase the courts, and give them every reason to come to Hawaii. It’s paid off and we’re super excited about it,” Orton said.

Orton says with the NBA-approved basketball court, she hopes to attract top-notch exhibition games and/or fan events, hopefully starting with the L.A. Clippers, who the Hawaii Tourism Authority has already signed up to hold fall camp here this October.

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