Stephen Tsai: Past Aloha Stadium flap had residual effect on UH track, soccer

Apr. 9—Most are familiar with the "Butterfly Effect " theory : A butterfly flaps its wings, setting off a chain reaction that eventually leads to a typhoon on the other side of the world.

Most are familiar with the "Butterfly Effect " theory : A butterfly flaps its wings, setting off a chain reaction that eventually leads to a typhoon on the other side of the world.

But how many imagined a flap over repairing an aging Aloha Stadium in 2011 would lead to the negative impact on the current University of Hawaii's women's soccer and track and field programs ?

Thirteen years later, the Rainbow Wahine soccer team held spring training at Mid-Pacific Institute, and the track team still cannot run around in circles on campus. While all will be resolved next January, when an on-campus track and soccer complex will be completed, for now the unavailability of a full, on-campus practice facility is more than a tough-it-out inconvenience for both programs.

The situation could be traced to the early 1970s, when it was decided that a metal stadium built near an ocean harbor would rust to a point and then stop, much like the misguided hope an untreated cancerous tumor would grow to a point and then stop.

After millions were spent on repairing Aloha Stadium, during a State of the State address in January 2011, then Gov. Neil Abercrombie questioned spending hundreds of millions more to maintain a stadium that "won't last more than another 20 years." Except for maintenance related to health and safety, Abercrombie said at the time, he suggested diverting "capital improvement dollars for Aloha Stadium to other projects."

The projection proved to be prophetic. Nine years later, Aloha Stadium was self-condemned to host spectator-attended events.

That forced UH to seek another venue for its football team's home games. UH retrofitted the on-campus Ching Complex to a 9, 300-seat facility for the 2021 football season. To comply with the NCAA's minimum attendance requirement of 15, 000, Ching added another 6, 000 seats in 2022. Part of the expansion included placing the end-zone stands over the track. As a result, the Wahine track team has not been able to practice relays or run longer than sprints on campus for two years.

The two-tier football and soccer practice fields were leveled to build the new soccer /track complex. But that means the football team does not have a grass practice field, the soccer team will have to practice off campus this coming fall, and most of the track team trains at Saint Louis School. There are still enough areas on Ching for sprint and field training.

The shame is the adjustment could have been eased if UH had more than eight months to find and prepare a new site for the 2021 football season. The unfortunate consequence is two women's programs that have entertainment—and legal—value to the university are collateral damage. In gender-equity accounting, track is one program that counts as three sports opportunities because of cross country, and indoor and outdoor teams. Non-compliance in providing relatively equal athletic opportunities impacts federal funding to schools.

Despite the complicated practice schedule, high jumper Lilian Turban placed 10th at the NCAA Indoor Championships last month ; the 4x100m relay team broke the program's 39-year-old record, and Maui-reared sprinter Alyssa Mae Antolin has set several team records.

The hope for the track program is future hurdles will be only in meets.