Honolulu Mayor Earmarks $43.6M For Blaisdell Concert Hall

Mar 7, 2020

More than $40 million is earmarked in Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell's budget plan to revitalize the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

Earlier this year, Caldwell announced he was suspending his plans to renovate the 22-acre Neal S. Blaisdell complex due to the unknown costs of the rail project. The plans would have demolished and replaced the arena, exhibition hall, and parking structure.

For now, Caldwell is proposing to allocate $43.6 million for the "phased development of the Blaisdell Center" in his capital improvement budget. $14.5 million would go toward completing the design of the concert hall.

Department of Enterprise Services director Guy Kaulukukui says the roughly $29 million remaining will be a placeholder for construction that is good for two years. He doesn't anticipate to use the funds in the next fiscal year.

"But we would need access to it in 2022," he said.

Caldwell says his administration never stepped away from wanting to renovate the Blaisdell complex. He cites the arena is starting to show its age, and if nothing is done it may no longer attract local and international acts.

"We recognize the cost of the Blaisdell, doing it all at one time, is something that shouldn't be undertaken at this time," said Caldwell. "But we believe that continuing the journey, or looking at it in a phased way, is an appropriate way to go.

"We put money in the budget so the next mayor and the next council can be talking about what they want to do. It'd be a shame if we went back to the status quo and nothing happened."

Kaulukukui said the original cost estimate to build a new concert hall was $83 million.

"But we know during the re-design that number will go up, because we now have to design it as a stand-alone entity," he said. 

"We expect, ultimately, that the final price tag on the concert hall could be in the 93 to 100 million dollars [range]."