Aidan Ueda, 3, tries out a trampoline with his mom Debi Ueda of Hilo during the soft opening of Sports Authority at Prince Kuhio Plaza on Friday afternoon.
Customers browse through the shoe section during the soft opening of Sports Authority at Prince Kuhio Plaza on Friday afternoon.
By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
For a brief moment, the shoppers stood before the gleaming new store front of the Sports Authority at the Prince Kuhio Plaza, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, taking it all in.
The 50,000-square-foot store held a soft opening Friday, and for those whose last memory of the space was when it was occupied by Woolworth and a succession of temporary tenants, the contrast was striking. For those who would drive more than 200 miles to the Sports Authority in Kailua-Kona, the new store was a relief.
From wall to wall are things for sale that the sports-minded person didn’t know he needed.
Need a tennis racket? There were 50 varieties of rackets along one wall of the store. Need tennis shoes? Sports Authority has those, too, along with golf shoes running shoes, basketball shoes, soccer shoes, football shoes, hiking shoes, volleyball shoes, training shoes, skateboarding shoes, walking shoes, baseball shoes, trail running shoes and aquatic hiking shoes, all in different brands and different sizes, and for men, women and children.
One corner of the store is reserved for hunting and camping things; another, for surf and water sports. The store has everything from $699 golf irons to 15-cent pieces of gum, treadmills, kayaks, wrist bands, head bands and bicep bands, football gear, weights, treadmills, swimsuits, trekking poles and an endless variety of socks. There are even sunflower seeds next to the baseball bats.
“Pretty sick,” said Damien Arcangel of Hilo, who along with Joaquin Mokila was looking for a wetsuit.
“I think it’s awesome that you guys have one on this side,” said Yvette Jones of Puna. “Usually, we have to drive to Kona for the kids’ sports equipment.”
“And my dad doesn’t have to go to Kona to buy his shotgun,” said son Kainalu Jones.
The store is open near the mall’s food court, which within a year or so will be home to a 7,000-plus-square-foot Zippy’s restaurant.
“This is our soft opening, but this coming Saturday (Aug. 11) is our grand opening,” said store manager Jacob Longwith. The doors open at 8 a.m. that day, and those first in line will get gift certificates. Retired offensive lineman Jesse Sapolu, a Honolulu native who played for the championship San Francisco 49ers, will be on hand to sign autographs.
Regular store hours are 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays and 9 a.m.-10 p.m. all other days.
With its corporate headquarters in Englewood, Calif., the retail chain has more than 450 stores in 45 states. The three stores on Oahu, the one on Maui, and now the two on the Big Island are unique in that they are the only ones with a surf section, Longwith said.
It was only last November that the shopping center announced that Sports Authority was coming, with a target date of May.
The store has nearly 75 employees, Longwith said.
A few hours after the store opened, he said the reception has been “amazing.”
“There was a need for us in Hilo,” he said. “Instead of having to go all the way to Kona,” people can come to the store in Hilo.
“We have the coolest selection of footwear,” Longwith said, pointing out the extensive display of Nike shoes.
“All of Hilo is here,” one person was overheard saying. “This is like the one in Kona,” said another.
Kaya Lela of Puna was one of those who used to spend a day driving to West Hawaii to get sports gear for her family.
“So we’ll save money on gas,” and have more money to spend on merchandise, Lela said as she pushed a shopping cart with $220 worth of stuff out the door.
Email Peter Sur at firstname.lastname@example.org.