We’ve been telling you how the city is working on a plan to renovate the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.
On Thursday night, the public got a chance to tell the city what it thinks of the plan and what should be done.
“It was conceived well in the late ’50s, built in the early ’60s,” said Guy Kaulukukui, director of the city’s Department of Enterprise Services, “but this is 2017, the 21st century, and we really need to make it a 21st-century venue for the people of Hawaii.”
This is the city’s second public workshop to develop a plan for the 22.4-acre complex.
“Where we go from here is we listen to what they have to say, we digest that information and refine the plan, we come back in a meeting similar to this in November, where we show the community our next step, our next stage, and get their input on that,” Kaulukukui said.
The latest plan would explore the following:
- Retain and renovate the Arena and Concert Hall
- Provide a new Exhibition Hall and meeting rooms
- Increase parking capacity
- Add performance venues, practice facilities and community spaces
- Expand open space, water features and public programming
- Extend Victoria Street
“Is this nice? Yes; 3,000 (parking) stalls, more exhibition space, a cleaner concert hall, who could argue with that? But that’s got to be in tandem with what does the city want the facility to do and is it economic, financially, and operationally possible?” said meeting participant Ken Kanter. “My concern about any facility is what’s it going to cost to maintain this, and what’s it going to cost to operate it? Because this facility has been understaffed for years. What happens when you put that kind of money in here, and you under-staff it and you under-fund it? It’s going to be obsolete pretty fast.”
Jonathan Parrish, executive director, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, says he’d like to see separate venues that can accommodate a variety of events at the same time.
But he’s also concerned with what could happen to the center’s longstanding tenants in the meantime.
“Right now, the city is focused on the ideas, what the concept is, and then the execution will come second. But we’re certainly raising that issue. We have to have a place to perform or we won’t survive,” Parrish said. “We think this is a great idea, but the regular tenants, and the symphony is an entity that has used the concert hall since it opened in September 1964, that we’ll be accommodated in some way.”
The city hopes to finish the design for the new facility by December 2018 and begin construction in early 2019. It would take about two to three years to complete a project that’s projected to cost upwards of $400 million to $500 million, which officials hope can be funded via public-private partnership.
If you missed the meeting, you can still let the city know what you think should happen to the Blaisdell.
You can visit www.ImagineBlaisdell.com to look at the current plan and send in your comments.