Hawai'i has found a temporary solution to its existential problem.
Last year, state authorities condemned Aloha Stadium, the Rainbow Warriors' home stadium since its 1975 opening. Last we heard, the local debate was whether to rebuild, renovate and retrofit the existing structure to the extent possible, which would presumably be the quickest and cheapest of the two options. One estimate put the price tag at $350 million for taxpayers. The other proposal would be to rip the thing down to the studs and essentially build an entirely new structure on top of the existing one. This, presumably, would be costlier and more time consuming, but would better position not only UH football, but the entire Honolulu tourism industry better for the long haul.
That's all well and good, but Todd Graham's program needs a place to play, now. The Rainbow Warriors open their home schedule Sept. 4 and they can't exactly hop on Interstate 5 and play their "home" games in LA, as San Diego State is doing while their new stadium gets built.
On Tuesday, Hawai'i announced it is "fast-tracking" an $8.3 million project to the on-campus TC Ching Athletics Complex to host Mountain West football.
This is what the Ching Athletics Complex looks like today.
And this is what it will look like come Sept. 4, according to renderings released by the university.
The $8.3 million will expand the complex's capacity from 3,500 to "about 9,000 seats," which will make it the smallest FBS home stadium by around 6,000 seats. (Charlotte's Jerry Richardson Stadium currently holds that distinction.) The renderings also appear to move the visitor-side grandstands opposite the press box closer to the field, positioning them right behind the track, an improvement upon their original position of beyond the track.
That 9,000 figure does not include the press box, hospitality suites and "aerial views," which, according to the renderings I'm looking at, are a gesture toward that parking garage on the top right corner of the above photo.
The Ching (can we call it The Ching?) will host at least 20 Rainbow Warrior games, seven apiece in 2022 and '23 as well as six this fall, beginning with Portland State on Sept. 4.
The Rainbow Warriors averaged roughly 24,000 fans per game in 2019 (the most recent full year on record), and so that's around 15,000 tickets per game the athletics department can't sell that they otherwise would have, assuming future teams are as good as the 2019 outfit -- on top of what UH is spending to spruce up The Ching and save Aloha Stadium. but on the flip side, The Ching is on campus and Aloha Stadium is (was?) 10 miles away. So not only, in theory, should every seat be full for every game, the on-campus location will help drive student attendance to create an atmosphere that is raucous and intimate at once. It's a high school-ish facility, yes, but it can create a high school atmosphere in the best possible way.
I can certainly think of worse places to watch an FBS football game than an intimate setting in paradise. Can't you?