Field Turf, the outcome: Is everybody happy?

FieldTurf timetable pushed back. Time is not of the essence now and everybody is happy, right??

Hammer Time

So who's really happy about

the FieldTurf conclusion?


By Hammer

RSN Columnist

Thursday, July 17, 2002


Headlines, headlines. "Hawaii investors, retirees shaken….Market turmoil bad for nerves." "Oahu economic growth at bottom during slow '90s … A new report ranks Honolulu economic growth last in the U.S. from 1991-2001." Last??? "Huge state budget deficit looming." Looming??? Enough, let's move from this depressing stuff to the real important stuff. Since Governor Ben called a meeting twice this past week to resolve the FieldTurf issue, this must be the real important stuff.


Here it is, the real important stuff. Guess you've heard by now, FieldTurf should finally be in. Not as soon as many had wanted, but soon. Let the games begin baby!!! Are you ready for some football???? The games will go on as scheduled. The Father Bray Classic and then our Warriors open the 2002 football season against that team from Illinois on one hot August night. If things go according to plan our Warriors will then close out the season in the inaugural 2002 ConAgra Hawaii Bowl on the AstroTurf playing surface on Christmas day. Then, it's aloha AstroTurf, mahalo for those burning memories that are hard to forget, especially the most recent ones that weren't played out on the turf, and aloha FieldTurf. Anyway, if all goes as planned, FieldTurf will be the playing surface at Aloha Stadium for the 2003 NFL Pro Bowl and for all sporting and entertainment events forever, or until the Rust Palace falls apart or until the NFL finds an even better surface their players prefer to play on.


"The outcome is happy for everybody eventually." That's how HTA interim executive director Rick Humphreys, who until very recently seemed to be represented by Tao Harrington at all the meetings around town, summed it all up this past Monday. I understand Mr. Humphreys probably had other commitments that kept him from attending. I'm sure that I was the only guy on this entire planet who didn't know that everyone that served as a member of the Governor's appointed HTA and Stadium Authority volunteers his or her time and goes unpaid. 'Happy for everybody eventually?' Eventually? I know what you mean, don't worry be happy, right? Well I'm in my analysis paralysis mode, so let's see if the outcome is really happy for everybody, eventually.


The FieldTurf people are happy, I think? With the decision that was announced on Monday, the turf that had been custom pre-cut to Aloha Stadium's specs and sitting in a warehouse in Georgia for a while could finally be shipped. Bet you Mr. Gillman and company have a few more white hairs because of all the delay. But man did FieldTurf move quickly. Once the NFL and HTA signed the new Pro Bowl contract two years ago it was cut, cut, cut and roll for FieldTurf. Ooops, slow down Mr. Gillman, we're on Hawaiian time here. What, the turf is all cut and ready to ship? Mister Gillman, I think somebody forgot to tell you and me that in Hawaii one Authority cannot bind another Authority. Mr. Writer, please, write so that everyone can understand. What this means is the HTA cannot make a decision for the Stadium Authority. In Hawaii that's the law. Is that a fact? So, plain and simple, the HTA could not bind the Stadium Authority. Hey Mr. Gillman, that is news to me too so don't feel too bad here. In my family I'm always the last to know about anything. Oh, oh. So if the Stadium Authority could not be persuaded to go along with the HTA and NFL decision, what would become of the custom cut turf? Start looking for a clone of our rusted out stadium somewhere on this planet that can move from a baseball to a football configuration and give them the old college sales pitch I guess. But, not to worry, it's now official right out of the horse's mouth: FieldTurf is in. Phew. The only thing is, where's the contract and where's the price tag? The FieldTurf people are happy, I think?


The NFL is happy. The players get their field of choice. The players and their families can continue to make their annual trek to paradise. The NFL needn't pull up roots and head for Orlando, the city that the NFL constantly brings up as their trump card. By the way, aren't there a bunch of pro teams in Florida already? If you ask me, is there a football glut there? Plus at least two or three top ten college teams? Florida, it's better to give than receive you know. Why do Mickey and Minnie need one more pro football game in Florida of all places? What's the draw of an all-star game when there are already so many pro games going on all the time? Aren't there enough Dolphins, Buccaneers and Jaguars for everyone in Florida already? And maybe if Orlando turned out to be a bust, maybe the NFL could go back to playing the Pro Bowl exhibition in different NFL towns every year. Just like in the good old days before the NFL made Hawaii the Pro Bowl's home away from home. If you're old like me you probably remember seeing the NFL Pro Bowl played in snowy Buffalo or Green Bay. Nothing against Buffalo and Green Bay mind you, but aren't those already NFL towns with NFL teams? Man, I can just see all the excitement. The marquee football players in the world after 20 or so hard fought games. You work your tails off to entertain us fanatics, you risk your body to do amazing feats that we armchair quarterbacks can only dream of, and now your reward for being an All Pro. Your reward Mr. All Pro Football star, drum roll please, welcome to the Pro Bowl, played in subzero weather on a frozen tundra.


The Hawaii Tourism Authority is happy. HTA, you can stop squeezing. The NFL Pro Bowl ain't going nowhere. Now that FieldTurf is in the Pro Bowl doesn't have that reason to use as a bargaining chip. Hey Governor Ben, the mission you had the HTA on for the past couple of years has been accomplished. Now that the deal has been approved by The Stadium Authority, that Pro Bowl contract the HTA signed with the NFL more than two years looks mighty good now. Could someone explain how a contract like this can be signed more than two years ago to put new turf in Aloha Stadium happen without letting the Aloha Stadium people in on it? Hello, someone smoking some funny looking cigarettes or something? Is this something that is important or is it? Shouldn't someone have brought all the interested parties together in a timely fashion? Why did it have to come to this and take more than a year and a half to reach people who are less than a half an hour away by automobile? Can you imagine what the HTA and Governor Ben would look like signing a contract with the NFL and then not be able to perform. "Ah sorry, we forgot to let the people in charge of the stadium know about the change in turf. They said no can do, procurement laws need to be followed plus we don't have money to do the job." If things didn't work out as they did the HTA and the Governor would really have made a big "A" of themselves. Well, that's a moot point now, HTA, Governor Ben, you can stop squeezing now.


The Cougars of BYU are happy, or eventually will be when they return to the Rust Palace. The turf will now be a softer and gentler surface for Big Blue's return trip to the islands in 2003. Funny how the Cougars had played Hawaii at Aloha Stadium on artificial turf since at least 1978. From 1978 up thru 1994 BYU came to the islands twelve times. That's twelve times in sixteen years. Twelve times to the artificial turf of Aloha Stadium. Don't recall complaints then when our tails were being whupped year in and year out. But, 2001? What's up with that? Ah, let's move on.


Governor Ben. Governor Ben. Finally, you get your legacy!!! Governor Ben is now a happy man!! Eventually, Governor Ben will be even happier to look back at his day in the limelight. The legacy of Benjamin. To complement your thirty thousand dollar painted portrait for all to see in perpetuity you get a spanking brand new green turf to go into a stadium that is a couple of stomps from fans away from falling apart. Lets count em. The inaugural Hawaii Bowl with the ESPN television contract, in his tenure. HTA secures NFL Pro Bowl for maybe forever, in his tenure. Warriors football team on the verge of national prominence, in his tenure. And now, your crown, ah, no pun intended FieldTurf people, the surface of choice of the NFL, approved in his tenure. The Rust Palace will see forever the soft green Governor Ben FieldTurf. Your legacy!!. Ben is happy!!!!!


The football fans of Hawaii are happy. The NFL Pro Bowl is here to stay baby!!!!!. This football crazy town would go nuts if the NFL Pro Bowl left town. Admit it, too small to sustain a team game in and game out, but a once a year all-star exhibition where we can see the best? That we can handle. We may not go crazy about college all stars and our Hula Bowl, but the best of the best? A no brainer. In Hawaii the NFL Pro Bowl means something. Plus, FieldTurf is in and our Warriors and high school kids can now play on a softer and gentler surface. Less injuries, etc., etc..


And finally, we the taxpayers of Hawaii. Are we happy????


The HTA has voted to pay $500,000 to install FieldTurf in Aloha Stadium. OK, so far so good, I think. No money out of my pocket. By the way, where does the HTA get their money from? Funded by the state. Where does the state get their money from? Taxpayers. Taxpayers? Hey, that's you and me!!!! OK, so the HTA has committed to spend $500,000 of our money, yours and mine, to install FieldTurf in Aloha Stadium. OK, so far maybe not as good as I had previously thought. Am I happy? That smiling happy face is starting to change here. OK, but before we decide if the taxpayers of Hawaii are happy let's continue with our analysis.


The NFL is going to contribute a substantial amount to install FieldTurf in Aloha Stadium. Good, as it should be. So far we the taxpayers of Hawaii are paying $500,000. NFL wants FieldTurf in, they should share in the bill. I believe in sharing, sharing is good. The question now is, what is a substantial contribution that the NFL keeps on mentioning? It all depends doesn't' it? Depends? Could be 10 cents, for some that's substantial, could be a million, for some not substantial. To this day I have yet to see in some form of communication exactly what a substantial amount is. What does the NFL intend to pay on this? Before I can be happy or unhappy, I gotta know. NFL, how much are you gonna pay????? Let me know, please!!!!!! Am I happy? Hmmmm.


So, what is the total cost? $877,000 right? That's all, right?? What's this thing about subsurface field prep? Nobody mentioned anything about field preparation. Just tear out the old stuff and lay down the new stuff!!! Whose bonehead idea was it to ask this question? Get the job done at $877,000 FieldTurf will install FieldTurf, everybody happy. There's nothing more is there? Don't waste anymore of my taxpayer money doing stupid soil studies!!! "Mr. Gillman, if this were your field what would you do?" Don't ask irrelevant questions Stadium Authority, I just want the turf installed and ready to go by our Warriors' first home game. "If it were my field I would prepare the surface right." What? Prepared right? The $877,000 is just for installation? What?? How much is that gonna cost? There's an additional $500,000 to $800,000 that would need to be spent to prepare the subsurface before the turf could be installed? Let's see if my abacus is working here.


OK, if I'm hearing this right, the worst-case scenario is $877,000 for turf plus installation part and maybe an additional $800,000 for subsurface field prep. That's the worst case. Gotta get into the 21st century, my abacus cannot go past one million. Pen and pencil will have to do for now. Pen and pencil, that's a cool $1,677,000 and a lot more than the $877,000 I keep hearing about. Worst-case scenario that's how much this project is going to cost. This was what was going thru my mind when I attended the now infamous Turf War meeting at Aloha Stadium.

Did this all make sense? I was so sure that Larry Price and the Stadium Authority were stonewalling this project. I had to find out the truth and boy was I wrong about so many things that I saw on the surface.


I called NFL field expert George Toma this past Monday and Tuesday as he was working on War Memorial Stadium on Maui and did he straighten out this middle-aged pake man out. "You gotta do the base right. That's the key to a good field. The base."


Hammer: "You mean to say that those questions asked by Mr. Price and the Stadium Authority at that meeting were proper?"


Toma: "They asked all the right questions. I sincerely and truly congratulate Mr. Price and the other Stadium Authority members. They do a terrific job and went about it in the right way. You have to have answers. FieldTurf is an excellent product and players love it. Hawaii doesn't have any excellent type athletic fields, except St. Louis High school. I've been in this business for 60 years and have been around the world. Larry Price and his crew do the best of any stadium I have seen, a tremendous job. They hold the line, they want answers, they want the best. Other people who run other athletic facilities need to have the same pride, creativity and ability to get things done. Now FieldTurf will be put in, but FieldTurf will not do the job if the base is not put in right. That's the secret. Be sure that the base is put in properly. FieldTurf is an excellent product, but if one does not install an excellent base, people will say FieldTurf is no good. It is excellent, but the base has to be excellent."


We continue to talk about different fields in Hawaii as well as the mainland. Talked about all the fields that were having problems and the common link in problem fields was that "they all forgot about the base." George Toma continued, "Be sure that the base is put in properly. Have someone watch the base and the turf put in."


As a football fan I am happy with the findings. The Stadium Authority asked all the right questions. Hawaii will now have FieldTurf installed the right way. There is enough of a window to do it right. Once installed the FieldTurf will be as good as the base that will now be done right (I hope). Remember, George Toma mentioned that someone should watch that the base and the turf be put in properly. When all is said and done Aloha Stadium should be good enough for the world to use.


As a taxpayer???? Is confused the right word? What is the total cost? Who is going to pay for what? Let me repeat that, read my lips. What is the total cost? Who is going to pay for what? I have a sneaking suspicion that you and me, the taxpayers of Hawaii, are gonna be footing the bill for the subsurface field preparation. Maybe I'm being too cynical in my old age. Time to turn on my stereo folks and chill out. Hey, it's Bobby McPherson in his Jamaican accent and he's singing that song…….."Do, do, do, do, do, do…..don't worry be happy!"


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