Construction on park could be under way next summer

KAHULUI – Construction on the state’s 65-acre Central Maui Regional Park could start as soon as next summer with more than half of the park completed sometime in late 2015, state officials and consultants said Thursday.

The park as now proposed would contain one high school baseball field, four softball fields, four youth baseball fields and four soccer fields along with approximately 575 parking stalls, restrooms and concessions.

The park would be bordered by Kuihelani Highway to the east and the Maui Lani residential areas of The Legends Phase II and the Traditions to the north and other proposed future developments to the west and south.

The approximately $22 million project, according to a recently released draft environmental assessment, could have its first phase go out to bid early next year. Comments on the draft environmental assessment for the park are due April 23.

“This is a really, really important first step to get the park going,” Mayor Alan Arakawa told a group of at least 65 people who attended a stakeholder meeting for the park in Pomaikai Elementary School cafeteria Thursday night.

The state and county are working together on the project, which is needed because some children are turned away from playing various sports because there are not enough playing fields, Arakawa said.

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, who pushed for the project while in the state Legislature as Central Maui’s senator, also recognized the need for more fields and thanked those who helped move the project along, including landowner Alexander & Baldwin, which is in negotiations with the state over the property acquisition

“We know there is a high demand no matter what field it is,” Tsutsui said during the meeting.

Currently, $14 million has already been appropriated for the park, with another $4.7 million pending before this year’s Legislature, Tsutsui said. After the meeting, he said that both the House and the Senate have included that $4.7 million in their prospective budgets.

If the $4.7 million is approved by the Legislature this year, it should be enough to complete the project at around $18.7 million even though it was estimated around $22 million, Tsutsui said.

He added that businesses and foundations, including one for professional baseball player Shane Victorino, have expressed interest to help fund additional amenities such as scoreboards for the park.

The park eventually will be operated and maintained by the county, with the county handling the administration and maintenance, but Tsutsui said that he hopes park users would also lend a hand to maintain the area.

“This is your park,” he told the audience.

Although state officials and their consultants fielded more than a dozen questions from audience members, ranging from night lighting, parking and using the fields for state tournaments, some of the more vocal audience members said that overall they liked the concept.

“I like what they’re doing,” said longtime baseball coach Milton Kaha of Wailuku after the meeting.

But he was concerned about parking and how the night lighting of fields would affect nearby residences.

He pointed to the lack of parking stalls at Keopuolani Park in Kahului and noted that when there are softball and soccer games simultaneously at the park, users are forced to park on grassy areas at the park, risking citations.

In addressing parking issues, Tsutsui said that he understood the need for parking, pointing out there’s also a lack of sufficient parking at Central Oahu’s Regional Park.

He added that he told planners to make sure the stalls were large enough to accommodate pickup trucks that people frequently drive to sporting events.

Longtime softball and track coach Rudy Souza said he also supports the project, but he wants the park to be properly cared for.

“It’s a good idea. But do it right,” he said after the meeting.

The 80-year-old said that proper maintenance is key. He asked during the meeting for community input into the project design, to which state officials agreed.

Among Souza’s concerns were adequate parking for the handicapped and making sure fields and dugouts were designed properly.

In responding to audience questions, consultants and state officials said that the fields could be used to host state tournaments. And, at least for now, lighting for night play will be provided for one softball field, one youth baseball field, as well as for the larger baseball field, with the possibility for more lighting for other fields. But officials said that the cost is an obstacle to providing for the entire project.

There will be no locker rooms for teams, although the county would hire more staff to help maintain the park, officials said.

Access to the park will be via at least two areas – Kamehameha Avenue and Kuihelani Highway – officials added.

The park would have a storm water detention basin for the nearby planned future Waiale development by A&B as well as a maintenance facility and irrigation water storage tanks.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at