“…they are really able to think outside the box.”

Star Advertiser, 3/16/2021

2017 study on UH lower campus shows insight

More than four years ago the University of Hawaii athletic department commissioned a “what if” architectural study and master plan for its lower campus area to glimpse what the future might hold as its part of a broader, school-wide 2050 effort.

Fast forward to today as UH attempts to retrofit the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletic Complex to be a suitable venue for its football team and attract fans for the 2021 season — and who knows how many more seasons beyond.

Whether through prescience or pure good fortune, suddenly, the “future” might not look so far off after all. And “what if?” might be replaced by “hey, why not?”

For all the short term scrambling that the shuttering of decaying Aloha Stadium has wrought, the long- term view might be welcomed for the opportunities it provides well beyond just the Ching Complex in football season.

What UH did back then was ask students in the School of Architecture to create a master plan for the lower campus area as part of their 2017 senior thesis. There was apparently enough food for thought that emerged from the proofof- concepts athletics master planning, UH has said, that “funding from the Legislature for proposed design work” was secured.

An area of focus for the 2017 studies, UH officials have said, is just a shanked punt or two away from the Ching Complex, land primarily along the sides of Lower Campus Road, the thoroughfare that runs from Dole Street past the Stan Sheriff Center and Les Murakami Stadium to the Old Waialae Gate.

Officially part of the Makai Campus, an 88-acre parcel below Dole Street and bounded by the H-1 Freeway, it is notable for its hodgepodge of development. But ever since the school acquired the land in 1953 it has been largely known as the “Quarry” — a reference to the excavation of construction material that existed there between 1889 and 1950.

Much of the lower part includes ROTC classrooms and a string of offices in the creaky so-called “portable” wooden structures, some of which have been rooted in place for more than 45 years.

Or, as UH President David Lassner has put it, “since statehood.”

It is a parcel UH has long sought to see plowed under and replaced by various types of development not only to better bind the upper and lower campuses but to further engage with the community and produce revenue. Only there has been no pressing need to tie in with asking for the money.

But the dilapidation of Aloha Stadium and questions about when its replacement might finally rise in Halawa has given UH reason to dust off those studies and maybe a case to argue.

“I think the lower campus can benefit from a new, fresh look,” Lassner told the Board of Regents in 2017. “I think it has developed fairly ad hoc over many decades, much like the university, and I’m wide open to seeing what could be done.”

In 2017, Matlin said, “It is an academic exercise for the students that might have some applications for us. They don’t have the constraints that we sometimes have, so they are really able to think outside the box. It is something, I think, we need to do more of.”

Depending on how things proceed from here, don’t bet against UH trying to realize some of its “future” sooner than 2050.

Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com or 529-4820