Regional park work to begin with funds released

With the $4.7 million in state funds released Friday by the lieutenant governor, officials now have enough money to start the first phase of construction for the proposed Central Maui Regional Park, according to an announcement from Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui’s office.

“The $4.7 million is one of the last appropriations, but we’re still finishing up the design and cost estimates,” Ross Tsukengo, his office’s deputy chief of staff, said Friday.

Combined with appropriations made in 2010, 2011 and last year, about $18.7 million has been allocated for the project, Tsukengo said.

The approximately 65-acre park will be built in an area bordered by the Maui Lani subdivision and Kuihelani Highway in Central Maui. Proposed plans for the park include a full-size baseball field, four softball fields, four Little League fields and four soccer fields. Additionally, plans include a parking lot with more than 600 stalls -with approximately 59 handicap stalls – as well as charging stations for electric vehicles, restrooms and concession areas.

There currently is enough money to start construction of Phase 1 – which includes the baseball field, softball fields, open field and parking lot – but it is still not known whether or not the $18.7 million will be enough to cover the entire cost of the project, Tsukengo said. Phase 2 of the project includes the soccer fields, comfort stations and a drainage retention basin.

A draft environmental assessment published in June estimated that the project would cost about $22 million. The draft assessment was unanimously approved by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday, according to Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman Deborah Ward.

“It’s really exciting to see that the development of the park is well underway,” said Tsutsui, a longtime advocate for the project, in a statement. “The sports complex will be a gathering place for families and children to play and spend quality time together.”

Tsutsui, who has been serving as acting governor while Gov. Neil Abercrombie is out of state, hopes to start soliciting bids in January and to begin construction of the first phase in June 2014. Construction is estimated to last approximately 6 to 8 months, draft documents show. If all goes well, Tsukengo said that they hope to finish both phases of the project by the end of 2015.

The project is part of the master-planned community of Wai’ale being developed by Alexander & Baldwin Inc. The land, formerly used for sugar cane cultivation, is in the process of being acquired by the state from A&B, according to the environmental assessment.

“Once completed, the park could serve as a venue to host local, statewide, national and international sporting events. It has the potential to be a revenue generator for Maui and the state,” Tsutsui said.

There are currently 20 parks in Central Maui totaling 327 acres, according to the environmental assessment, but government officials and residents have said in the past that there are not enough athletic fields to sustain all of the sports activities on Maui.

“The Wailuku-Kahului area has high projected growth and there is a need to incorporate new recreational spaces into development in the region. The construction of the Central Maui Regional Park would help meet this need,” the environmental assessment said.

In his State of the County address last year, Mayor Alan Arakawa made a proposal, in coordination with Tsutsui’s plans, to acquire an additional 242 acres of parkland in Waikapu to create one “huge park complex.” He will share his vision for the park and a revised proposal to acquire 209 acres from landowner A&B at a news conference scheduled for Monday afternoon.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at