Posted tagged ‘Neil Blaisdell Center’

The next 50 years of Blaisdell Center

August 8, 2017

When I was young, I went to Food and New Products shows with my mom at the Blaisdell Center. I went to my first music concert with my best friend at the Blaisdell Center. When my son was younger, we took him to fitness and education expos at the Blaisdell Center, and learned about opera from the Hawai‘i Opera Theatre. More recently, we watched an acrobatic performance at the Blaisdell Center.

Now, the 22-acre Neal Blaisdell Center, built in 1964, is due for repairs and renovations. I missed the July 13, 2017 workshop, where the City presented a summary of the 2016 Feasibility Study and Conceptual Land Use Plan. This Blaisdell Center Master Plan is based on work by a consultant team, community leaders, key stakeholders, and site users.

I like the idea of increased parking and extending Victoria Street to Kapiolani Blvd, which would improve traffic flow. I like the idea of additional meeting rooms and offices above the Exhibition Hall, and the wetland garden and Kewalo Spring water feature. I admire the proposed redesign of the Arena plaza at Ward Avenue and Kapiolani Blvd, to create a prominent entrance and welcome pedestrians with a ticket office and retail space.

On-site housing could help address logistics concerns. The Preferred Land Use Plan specifically states that no housing would be developed on-site, but I think we should consider a number of studio apartments, which could be used by visiting promoters, performers, and support personnel – especially for events where logistics staff need to be available at all times. The studio apartments could be built above the parking structure.

To preserve Blaisdell Center’s history and performances and encourage visitors on non-event days, perhaps we could incorporate a small Performance Museum or Heritage Center near the Arena ticket office, or a “Walk of Fame” near the Exhibition Hall.

Of course, the three key questions to answer are: Do we need it? Can we afford it? And can we maintain it?

Do we need it? While the Concert Hall and Arena are in “acceptable condition and size,” the Exhibition Hall needs “substantial renovation.” Overall, improvements could be made for safety, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues, infrastructure and storage space, and parking. The Center could benefit from additional parking, a business center, meeting rooms and offices, retail space, and a rehearsal venue.

Can we afford it? The City and County of Honolulu estimates that the renovations will cost $400-$500 million, mainly funded through City bonds. I’m concerned about the increase in major building projects the City is juggling, from rail transit and the Waikiki Natatorium to Ala Moana Beach Park and Thomas Square. I don’t know whether the budget is realistic, how long it would take to repay the bonds, or whether there would need to be an increase in taxes or Blaisdell Center fees.

Can we maintain it? If the City follows the Preferred Land Use Plan, it seems that the additional parking, concessions, retail space, meeting rooms, and offices could help fund maintenance and repairs.

The City’s design team is incorporating public feedback from that July 13, 2017 meeting. If you missed it, there will another public meeting in the fall of 2017.

What are your first experiences with Blaisdell Center? What do you think about the proposed renovations?