Funds allocated for Hilo High track improvements, other island school projects

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Hilo High School’s aging dirt track and uneven athletic field could be getting an upgrade — and give runners a bounce in their steps.


Hilo High School’s aging dirt track and uneven athletic field could be getting an upgrade — and give runners a bounce in their steps.

Earlier this year, lawmakers allocated $4.4 million in capital improvement project funding to renovate the high school’s track and field, as well as upgrades to its auditorium and locker rooms.

Coaches at Hilo High School say the track and field renovation is long overdue. The track was constructed decades ago from a cinder material and has never been revamped, only resurfaced, as material wears away from the weather. The field also can’t officially host football or soccer games because it is positioned at a slope.

“Our track is very old and it’s still a cinder-style track,” athletic director Kurt Kawachi said. “One of the projects we hope to improve on is getting a synthesized, rubberized track. Along with that, our football field inside the track is (positioned) at a slant. It’s not conforming to standard. One of the things we’re also trying to do is level the playing surface.”

The track and field project was earmarked about $1.25 million of the $4.4 million. Most of the remaining funding was earmarked for upgrading the auditorium.

Rep. Chris Todd, D-Hilo, also a Hilo High football coach, said the $1.25 million could be used for immediate basic upgrades — within the next three to four years — or set aside toward a future full-scale renovation with additional amenities such as bleachers and new restrooms. A full-scale renovation would probably happen within about six years, he said.

Hilo High is among eight Hawaii Island schools slated to receive nearly $20 million in capital improvement funding this year. Funding covers fiscal years 2018 and 2019. It still must be released by Gov. David Ige in order to be spent.

Other earmarked projects are:

• $3 million to install air conditioning at the Hale ‘Alahonua residence hall at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Todd said the dorm’s inside temperature can swelter past 90 degrees, potentially making it an unattractive housing option for students. The dorm has remained under capacity since opening in 2013. UH-Hilo also is lowering the cost to live in the dorm next year — another effort to lure more students.

“When you’re competing against other colleges to keep students and attract new students, that’s not a great look,” Todd said. “And in my mind, the best way for Hilo to grow is through the university.”

• $2.5 million for upgrades to Waiakeawaena Elementary School’s cafeteria and administrative buildings. The cafeteria is aging and no longer meets the school’s capacity needs. Todd said money could be used for basic upgrades or used as a placeholder for a full renovation in the future.

• $1.5 million to install covered walkways at Honokaa High School.

• $1.2 million to install covered walkways at Naalehu Elementary School.

• $1 million for improvements to Kohala High School’s gymnasium.

• $700,000 for Hawaii Community College’s trades and apprenticeship program and physics lab classroom.


• $700,000 for a dual-use play court/assembly area at Kohala Middle School.

Email Kirsten Johnson at

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