Field and Revenue Stream

The new Central Oahu Regional Park offers much-needed athletic fields to the island. It might even give the economy a little kick.

July, 2002

Later this summer, city officials will unveil the Central Oahu Regional Park’s second phase of its planned three-phase development. The expansion will add some 100 acres to the already Ponderosa-sized park, which includes two more baseball fields (one lighted), four softball fields and a tennis complex with 18 courts. The $3.1 million tennis complex will feature a lighted clubhouse court and a lighted show court. In addition, more comfort stations, parking, picnic tables, benches and walking paths have also been constructed.

Phase III of the development is slated for completion in 2004. The expansion, which will increase the size of the park by another 100 acres, will be built around a $6.1 million aquatics center.

All told, the Waipio park, originally opened in July 2001, now measures approximately 170 acres and contains a baseball field quadraplex, youth baseball quadraplex, a softball quadraplex and five multipurpose fields for soccer, football and other field sports. Since June, both youth and adult baseball tournaments have been held at the park nearly every weekend. The softball fields are also booked solid. Tournaments are scheduled every weekend from late August through mid December.

They’ve built it, and now they’re coming.

According to Deputy Managing Director Malcolm Tom, city officials had three objectives when they began designing the park more than three years ago. “First, the park is to supply quality recreational facilities for the community,” Tom says. “Secondly, we wanted to have facilities that could be utilized for tournaments. The third objective is to attract professional teams, international tournaments and even colleges to come down here to practice.”

Tom points out that the park has fulfilled its first two missions. In addition to the baseball and softball tournaments, a United States Tennis Association National Junior Tournament is scheduled for 2003. City officials have also made inroads to the third mission earlier this year when the Hanwha Eagles, a Korean professional baseball team, held workouts at the park for two months.

According to Tom, the park itself doesn’t generate revenue. The Korean team wasn’t charged for its use of the park. However, many dollars were spent by the team on lodging, food, entertainment and transportation. “We’re looking at it from a sports tourism standpoint, bringing in teams and fans of amateur and professional sports,” says Tom. “Everyone wants to come over here and play. And when they do, that means revenue.”

If successful, the park could be another cog in the state’s sports tourism machine, which has plenty of surf and sunshine but has been short on facilities. It would be a small part in a very large machine. According to the Sports Tourism International Council, sports tourism and sports-related activities account for 32 percent of overall tourist dollars.

However, whether the Central Oahu Regional Park can attract professional teams outside of the Korean Peninsula is an open question. According to Hervy Kurisu, president of Hawaii Winter Baseball (a sister company of PacificBasin Communications) and state commissioner of Babe Ruth Baseball, the park would need additional improvements to attract professional teams from Japan and the Mainland. “The fields are great, but they’re just fields,” says Kurisu. “For some that is adequate, but for American and Japanese teams to come down, you’ll need more infrastructure. You’ll need things like batting cages and locker room facilities.”

However, Kurisu says that the park has had a positive impact on the state’s amateur and student athletes and eventually the island economy overall. “We’ll be getting our fair share of national tournaments here and our athletes will be exposed to a high-caliber of competition from the mainland,” says Kurisu. “And youth tournaments will help the economy. The families stay in Waikiki, they take in shows, go out to eat and rent buses and cars. All in all, it will help the economy.”

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David K. Choo