By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Renovations to the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium are scheduled to begin Monday and end just before the start of next year’s Merrie Monarch Festival.
The $3.2 million project is expected to improve the festival experience, with construction of a much-needed dressing room, a larger lobby, upgrades to restrooms, as well as other improvements.
But with the 50th annual hula celebration just around the corner, there is little room for error.
The festival, held each year at the Hilo stadium, will run from March 31 to April 6.
Construction is scheduled to finish March 15.
To keep that schedule from slipping, Hawaii County has added some “unusual” conditions to the contract with Isemoto Contracting, said Parks and Recreation spokesman Jason Armstrong.
Those include a specific start and finish date and a $500 fine for each day the deadline is missed.
“We are hopeful those will be adequate enough to ensure completion in time for the festival,” Armstrong said.
“Barring any kind of major crisis or natural disaster, everything should be done by the festival’s opening date,” he added.
Parks and Recreation Director Bob Fitzgerald told the Tribune-Herald last month that he promises the project will be done on time and that he would express urgency to the contractor.
Luana Kawelu, festival president, said she met with county staff last week and was reassured there will be no impact on next year’s events.
“They told me it will be ready,” she said. “I’m hoping it will be ready.”
Kawelu said she is most worried about the availability of bathrooms.
“It could shut us down if they’re not ready,” she said. “They assured me it will be.”
Kawelu also said she is excited about the renovations, particularly better dressing room accommodations for performers.
“Whatever makes it easier for the halau … I’m all for it,” she said.
The dressing room will be in a new 4,200-square-foot multipurpose building to be located adjacent to the stadium on two tennis courts considered unplayable due to their condition.
The lobby area in front of the stadium will be expanded toward the parking lot.
The project was initially estimated at $2 million; Armstrong said the cost was bumped up due to additions such as covered walkways to Aunty Sally’s Luau Hale and over the concession area, bathrooms in the dressing room and electrical upgrades.
He attributed the department’s “pretty heavy workload” to why the project wasn’t scheduled to start sooner but emphasized that he is confident the festival’s jubilee will be improved rather than impacted by the work.
“We want to make the experience as memorable and enjoyable as possible,” Armstrong said.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.