Monday, March 04, 2024|
Share this story
An excavator that will be used during improvements at the Hilo High track is seen on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.
A worker walks to an excavator that will be used during improvements at the Hilo High track on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.
Construction work on a new football field and track at Hilo High School — a project that has long languished on the drawing board — is underway.
Contractor Nan Inc. recently broke ground on the $11 million project, which had been in the design and planning phase since 2017. The plan is to replace the old cinder track with a state-of-the-art rubberized track, and to turn the uneven, dangerous football practice field into a regulation playing surface.
State Rep. Chris Todd — a Hilo Democrat and former Vikings assistant football coach who is now assisting former Viks head coach Kaeo Drummondo at Kamehameha Schools — said construction will be done in two phases “to be the least disruptive to activities on campus.”
“The first phase, which has just begun, is to do the actual site improvements, redo the track and field. They have to do a retaining wall between the existing track and the new gym, the mauka side,” Todd said.
According to Todd, the new track is going to be a little bit longer and narrower than the old one.
“It’ll be regulation size, six lanes. So, it’ll be able to host BIIF meets. The only thing you can’t host with a six-lane track is a state (championship) meet, but Keaau and Waiakea are already the eight-lane size, so there really wasn’t a need for a full eight-lane track. And the amount of space you have on that footprint wouldn’t allow for eight lanes plus bleachers.”
Todd said the new bleachers, which will seat about 700, will be along the Waianuenue Avenue side of the track.
A new parking structure also is in the plan-and-design phase.
“It’s going to be somewhat below campus,” he said. “It’ll be below the gym. But the questions are going to be where it’s going to line up in relation to the current DOE Annex, how high do you make the structure, and how many parking stalls? But the idea is that it could service the gym and also the new track and field, once it’s up and running.”
Completion of the track and field project’s first phase is projected for fall 2024, after which practices and physical education classes could be held there.
“But you wouldn’t be able to host a full-on football season, track season or soccer season until phase two is completed — which we’re looking at for probably fall 2025 to host a football game,” he said.
A new gridiron in time for fall practices is music to the ears of John Flores, Hilo High’s head football coach.
“I think it will be a boost of morale for the boys to get to play on a nice, brand-new field. It’ll be safer,” Flores said. ‘This year, me and my assistant head coach (Kahale Huddleston) went out there and made lines and hash marks, so the boys can kind of get an idea of what spots they’re supposed to be in, you know, when they run their routes and stuff. At least we won’t have to do that anymore.”
Todd said once bleachers are installed, the new football field can host BIIF contests. But they’ll have to be day games, because lights aren’t a part of the current plan.
“Waiakea High School is in a similar situation, and in talks with their administration, they have chosen not to pursue lights,” Todd said. “I think it would be a good idea to pursue lights, as someone who would have to coach in some of those very, very hot afternoon games at Waiakea.
“It’s not a case where you would have to have lights at both facilities. But I think one of those facilities, either Hilo or Waiakea, should definitely get lights.”
Prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, numerous community members used to walk or jog daily on Hilo High’s dilapidated track. Todd said once the new track is installed, there might not be public access.
“I would like this to be a facility that would be open to the public — in the long run, at least. There are things that would complicate it, like security,” Todd said.
“I think the thing that’s kind of been taken for granted with the Hilo High track, prior to COVID when it was shut down, was that it was always publicly available. That’s due in part to the fact that it’s so rundown, you couldn’t do anything to damage it.
“… I think the current plan would be no public access. … Best case scenario, it would take an actual security guard on site. … At the moment, there’s no plans for that, but it’s going to take some coordination down the road.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *