Remarks to the Aloha Stadium Authority

David McClain, Interim President, University of Hawaii

University of Hawaiʻi
Carolyn Tanaka, (808) 956-9803
Mia Noguchi, (808) 956-9095
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Aug 25, 2005

Chair Chong Kee and Members of the Stadium Authority:

Mahalo nui for the opportunity to speak with you today. I note that the Authority‘s motto calls for the Stadium to be a place "where families can gather to share their cultural diversity with pride and a feeling of Aloha." Based on my observations over the last several years, I have to conclude that fewer and fewer families will be able to have that experience, at least during UH football games.

The reason is the excessive consumption of alcohol that is occurring during our games, and its negative impact on public safety.

I base this conclusion on my personal observation as a fan who has attended a number of UH games in the past several years. When I was a member of the faculty, my wife Wendie and I became part of a hui organized by Riley Wallace; over the years we have purchased first two season tickets a year, then four. Our seats are on the 35 yard line, 7 rows up, on the aisle.

In the past 2-3 years, we‘ve noticed a sharp deterioration in the environment around our seats, and in the Stadium generally. It‘s now an every-game occurrence for someone in our seating area to have beer spilled on them by intoxicated fans trying to get back to their seats from a trip to the concession stand. I‘ve observed our concessionaires selling beer to customers who clearly have had too much to drink. I‘ve watched as our inebriated fans have harassed fans from other universities, while I‘ve been in their seating area bidding welcome to the presidents of those universities. And of course I‘ve seen the fights break out, some of which have been captured on videotape and broadcast nationally.

In short, we have a problem with the excessive consumption of alcohol at Aloha Stadium.

I suggest that the surest, most effective first step to address this problem is to follow the example of universities across the land and to ban the sale of alcohol in Aloha Stadium.

I realize that this will not eliminate the problem. We could go further and ban the consumption of alcohol in the parking lot as well, but I am not suggesting that at this time. I‘d like to give the ban on sales in the Stadium a chance to work, and I respect the fact that tailgating is a long established tradition at Aloha Stadium. Moreover, I have real reservations about the Authority‘s ability to enforce a ban on alcohol in the parking lot.

I realize that this initiative will penalize the great majority of fans who drink responsibly, and I regret that. I‘m sure the same consideration was in play across the country in stadiums which have banned the sale of alcohol, who in the end considered the costs of limiting individuals‘ right to drink to be outweighed by the public safety benefits of a safer stadium.

I also realize that this proposal will have a direct financial impact on the Stadium Authority and on its concessionaire, Centerplate. I would only observe that Centerplate is a $600 million company with 30 thousand employees operating in stadiums across the country, including stadiums that don‘t permit the consumption of alcohol on their premises. I‘m sure they can adapt to the changed circumstances my proposal would require. And I would observe to the Stadium Authority that, from a risk management perspective, a safer stadium is likely to be one that in fact produces better, not worse, economic returns.

Let me stress to the Authority that my interest here lies in results: the Authority needs, and our fans need, a safer, more wholesome environment in which to watch the Warriors play. If there is a better proposal than an outright ban on alcohol sales which also achieves the desired result of a safer environment, I would support it as well.

But how realistic, really, is the hope of better enforcement? I think the fact that the Honolulu Police Department has endorsed the proposal to ban the consumption of alcohol at Aloha Stadium tells you where the law enforcement experts stand. And enforcement also costs money, as will any other alternative solution that comes up.

It‘s important to note that I‘m not proposing the cessation of alcohol sales at the Sheriff Arena, or at Murakami Stadium. The reason is simple: we don‘t have a problem with fan behavior in either of these venues.

The fans of UH football are a terrific and enthusiastic group. We‘re fortunate to have their support. But in recent years more and more well-meaning fans are getting caught up in the excitement of the moment, then have one too many, get drunk, and become a menace to their fellow fans.

We can‘t eliminate this behavior, but we can make it less likely to happen. That‘s what the proposal to end the consumption of alcohol at Aloha Stadium will do. I encourage you to act favorably on this proposal at the earliest possible opportunity.