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Official Review by Kalei Hanawahine, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Aloha Stadium is located in Halawa, Oahu, a western suburb of Honolulu and is Hawaii’s largest outdoor arena. Built in 1975 with a 50,000-seat capacity, Aloha Stadium is located just two miles north of Honolulu International Airport, and is home to the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football team. The stadium has hosted the annual NFL Pro Bowl game since 1980 and currently hosts the NCAA’s Hawaii Bowl every December, a Christmas Eve mainstay since 2002.
Prior to 2007, Aloha Stadium had the ability to reconfigure four movable 7,000-seat sections, each 3.5 million pounds in order to take shape to host multiple sporting events. Using air casters, the stadium could reconfigure into a diamond shape to host baseball and soccer games as well as a triangle for concerts. However, due to the costs and maintenance issues to reconfigure the stadium, it has been permanently locked for the past 8 years.
A design flaw in the weathering steel used to build the stadium is a key contributor to its aesthetically unappealing appearance. Much of the stadium is rusting, as the initial builders failed to take into account Honolulu’s sea-laden air. In 2008, the state of Hawaii approved $185 million to refurbish the diminishing stadium. The money was used to add a high definition scoreboard, seat replacements as well as rusting treatment. In 2011, the playing turf was upgraded through a sponsorship deal with Hawaiian Airlines, hence its name, Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium.
However, even with the recent renovations, Aloha Stadium still feels outdated as you walk the concourse, and is an eyesore from the highway. Fortunately, the variety of local treats is a positive for any food lover along with a wide variety of beer options.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Aloha Stadium offers a wide variety of local treats and drinks for fans to indulge in. Concession lines are about a 5 minute wait due to almost sold out capacity. Concession lines along the sides of the concourse make it difficult to maneuver the concourse as most lines blocked the pathway.
The typical stadium foods are offered such as chili dogs ($9.00), hot dogs ($6.00), nachos ($8.00), boiled peanuts ($7.00), Papa John's pizza, chicken strips, and French fries. But for the more adventurous eater, one must try the local flavor with the luau kalua pig plate for $12.00. This plate comes with rice, poi, lomi salmon and macaroni salad. If that is not appealing, there are Greek concession stands offering gyro sandwiches ($10.00), chicken wraps ($13.00), and a Greek salad ($11.00). Garlic fries ($7.00) and a teriyaki burger ($7.00) makes a nice combination too.
I recommend trying our local favorite island shaved ice ($6.00). Flavors include banana, orange dream, grape, strawberry, li hing mui, vanilla and rainbow. Free toppings include snow cap (condensed milk) or li hing powder (crack seed local seasoning).
The concession stands offer Pepsi product fountain drinks ($6.00), and there are a few slush stands offering slushy flavored fruit drinks, tropical iced tea and lemonade. For non beer drinkers looking to cool off, a solid choice is the Maui Wave smoothie concession offering fruit smoothies and bubble tea flavors including Kona Coffee, strawberry banana, mango and honeydew.
Aloha Pops offers a refreshing popsicle snack at $5.00. Flavors include passion orange guava, red white and blue, pineapple Li hing, strawberry lemonade or cherry. At the same concession they have chocolate dipped bananas for $6.00.
A variety of beer options are available, including premium drafts Shock Top, Heineken, Heineken Light, Blue Moon, Newcastle, and Corona Light. Premium drafts run $11.00 and limit 2 per person per transaction. Domestic drafts are also available which include Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Primo. These drafts will cost you $10.00.
Approximately 45,000 fans show up every year to watch the NFC vs AFC NFL all-stars take the field. The stadium feels full for once with many fans travelling from the states to cheer on their favorite team and or players. Aloha Stadium is not a beautiful structure by any means, due to its rusting over the years, and plain dark brown paint job. The stadium consists of stands stretching across the length of the field and behind the end zones, leaving four big gaps in each corner. Each seat in each section is the same, no cup holders and made out of hard plastic. The spaces between the seats and between rows are also the same throughout the stadium. The only difference is the color it is painted. The lower section is orange, middle section blue, the loge is brown, lower upper is red and the upper section is yellow. The field turf is nice featuring the NFL neon Pro Bowl logo at the 50 yard line along with each team's name painted in the end zone.
The large video scoreboard is located in the north end zone along the loge area of the stands, and has video replay ability. The screen is split in half with the left side providing the score, quarter and time, while the right is used for replay and animation. An additional propped scoreboard screen is put up in the south Makai corner, giving fans on the north end zone a large screen to look at. Behind the screen was a large banner of Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin for the 2016 event, facing the concourse giving the fans out of their seats a cool spectacle.
A cool aspect of the game is the cheerleaders from each team teaming up together. Also making appearances on the sideline are the different team mascots. Throughout the game, on-field interviews of players are projected throughout the stadium PA, which engages the fans with the players.
The halftime show honored Hawaii high school's varsity football teams, as they walked on to the field after being introduced over the PA. If a high school had a former NFL player, they joined the team as well. Marcus Mariota received the biggest applause as he joined his alma mater Saint Louis school.
The best seating options is the 50-yard line orange section on the Makai (ocean) side about halfway from the top. The logo at the center is facing upright towards you, and you are shielded from the sun at all times. Another great option is the loge area, which provides a cozy 5 row deep covered section in between the middle blue section and the upper yellow section. If you are seated on the Mauka (mountain) side during an early afternoon game, you will be battling the sun for the entirety of the game.
Aloha Stadium is located in Halawa, a residential area located about 10 miles west of Waikiki, about a half hour drive away. Surrounding the stadium are small shopping centers. Stadium Mall is an older style strip mall located across the street with a few casual dining options such as Stadium Camellia Restaurant or Royal Palace restaurant if you are looking for Chinese food. There is also Subway, Jack in the Box and Taco Bell in the strip mall.
There are a few attractions near the stadium. Ice Palace is an ice rink located in Stadium Mall on Salt Lake Blvd across the street. The Arizona Memorial and the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center is located just a half mile away. The USS Bowfin Memorial Park is also located a half mile away, while Pearl Harbor is a little over three miles away. The Bishop Museum is an interesting museum primarily focusing on Native Hawaiian history and is just four miles away.
Although the Pearl Harbor attractions are near the stadium, most people do not lodge in Halawa. There are a few options to stay near the stadium such as the Harbor Shores Apartment Hotel and the Harbor Arms Hotel. The Airport Honolulu Hotel and the Best Western The Plaza Hotel are also options, but most visitors would be inclined to stay in Waikiki.
The Pro Bowl creates a very diverse fan crowd with fans representing every single team. Most fans sported their favorite player's jersey, and friendly trash talk between fans rained consistent throughout the game. Playful trash talk started in the line waiting to get into the stadium, and was prominent while sitting in my seat. Nobody took the trash talk too far, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
The tailgate appears to be awesome and full of energy. Although I did not take part in any tailgating, the entire parking lot was full of tailgaters BBQing and hanging up their team's flag high above their cars. If you wish to tailgate, you must show up early as the lot fills up in less than 2 hours from opening.
If there is one gripe about the Pro Bowl experience, it is the access in and out of the stadium, as many fans experience longer than expected times to get in and out of the stadium/parking lot.
For the fans looking to park inside the stadium parking, stadium officials gave notice that the parking lot will be full within 1.5 - 2.5 hours from the opening. Salt Lake Main Gate 1 will open at 9:30 a.m. (Passes and ADA only). North Kam Gate 2 will open at 9:30 a.m. (Public and Passes only - direct parking). Halawa Gate 3 and Lower Salt Lake Gate 4 will open to the public at 9:30 a.m. (direct parking). Parking rates will be $15 per car; $30 per bus or limousine.
If you did not want to park in the stadium, alternative parking lots are made available. Free parking and shuttle service include:
• Ford Island: 10 a.m. to one hour after game.
• Radford High School: 10 a.m. to one hour after game. $15 parking. No shuttle service.
• Leeward Community College: 10 a.m. to one hour after game. Free parking and shuttle service.
For those not driving to the game, you can take advantage of TheBus' "FootballExpress!" shuttle service that will cost $6.25 one way. No bus passes or transfers are accepted. TheBus will offer a shuttle service, "FootballExpress!" to bring fans to and from Aloha Stadium for the NFL Pro Bowl with pick-up locations in convenient areas all across the island. You can view the pick-up locations via this link.
Access into the stadium includes a 45 minute wait in line to get through the turnstiles. Turnstile Gates 1 - 8 will open to the public starting at 10:30 a.m. Entertainment will be provided at turnstile Gates 3, 5, 7, & 8 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
As a reminder, bag restrictions are in effect, and prohibited items now include selfie sticks and drones. Once inside the stadium, access in the concourse is congested because of concession lines overflowing into the walkway. Bathroom lines are fairly short and easily accessible.
If you want to enjoy sunny tropical weather at the end of January, along with cheering on your favorite player, then the Pro Bowl will be worth your time. Although the game isn't competitive, it is still entertaining to see NFL All-Pro players run around for 60 minutes.
But tickets are very high priced starting at $30.00 in the upper north end zone. $45.00 a ticket is for seats in the upper south end zone. If you want to be front close and center, lower section midfield will cost you $140.00 on the Makai side (no sun), or $115.00 per ticket on the Mauka side. Mauka side fans will be battling the sun throughout the game, therefore tickets are $10.00 less than the Makai sections. Make no mistake you will spend a lot of money just to get into the game, on top of high concession prices.
If you are a true NFL fan, then the game is worth going to, but for a casual fan they may enjoy it more from the comfort of their couch.
Once the game concludes, you can rush down to the sideline and try and get an autograph or picture with your favorite players. Many of the players stay after the game to interact with fans and sign autographs. If you are willing to battle the crowd and stay a little late, this is definitely a must do for you. This is one of few opportunities to meet your NFL superstars and get their autographs.
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4510 Salt Lake Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96818
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