It’s nice to know rumors about Hanapepe Stadium are just rumors

Here’s a rumor for you:

Hanapepe Stadium is not only going to be closed for high school football games, County officials plan on building a 100-yard long tribute to Canadian sensation Celine Dion, equipped with 44 cement blocks of the singer’s hand and foot prints, a digital surround sound system blasting each of her screeching tunes and an extensive gift shop filled with items fit for the hopeless – extremely hopeless – romantics.

If we’re lucky, they might even reserve the end zones for Barry Manilow.

The recent rumors about Hanapepe Stadium are just that – rumors. They are baseless and hinge on heresay.

Hanapepe Stadium won’t take down its goal posts. It won’t wipe out the three games that are scheduled at the field for the upcoming KIF football season, and currently, the County said it has no intention of asking that all of the games move to Vidinha Stadium.

“At the time Vidinha Stadium was being built, there was discussion that the games would be centralized in Lihue,” said Mel Nishihara, who heads the Parks and Recreation division of the Kaua’i County Public Works Department. “But any rumors that the KIF will stop playing its football games at Hanapepe are baseless.”

There are some issues, though.

Hanapepe Stadium was criticized for its lighting, as it has five poles to Vidinha’s six. It was also said its bleachers are unsafe for patrons, and that the lack of fencing around the perimeter of the field doesn’t create a barrier between officials and unruly fans.

But let’s address these issues:

Sure, Hanapepe could use one more lighting pole, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to see. Sporting News-owned High School Football Magazine can see everything just fine – it just named Hanapepe Stadium the fifth best venues for prep football in the country.

There could be a re-haul of the bleachers, although Nishihara mentioned they’ve been repaired and currently do not pose an immediate safety hazard.

And as for the problem of fans becoming unruly and having no barrier to protect officials? In that case, let’s shut down Bernice Hundley Gymnasium to basketball games – I’m sure everyone remembers what happened there last season when the lights were shut off and two points were inadvertently stricken from the scoreboard. And let’s bid farewell to Vidinha’s baseball field. It was just last spring a fan assaulted an umpire shortly after the final pitch.

Longtime KIF official Leo Rapozo said the last time he witnessed a problem with unruly fans at Hanapepe was in the late 1970s, when thereafter officials had to be escorted to and from KIF football games.

“It has gotten much better over the years, though,” Rapozo once said. “It’s not that much of a threat anymore.”

The real issue? – Should KIF postseason games or on-island State tournament games be played at Hanapepe, or should they remain at Vidinha Stadium?

“We have no choice when it comes to playoffs and States,” said Waimea Athletic Director James Kitamura. “We’d like to play on our home field, but we have to play at Vidinha.”

It’s a complaint that is shared by all Waimea supporters and has existed for quite some time now.

Fans love watching games at Hanapepe. I love watching games there. Football and baseball. For football, there is no track so you get an up-close view of the field. Fans can pull out their folding chairs and line the end zones, have picnics, and eat plate lunches while they support their teams.

High School Football Magazine got it right. In my years covering high school sports, I have never been to a more viewer friendly field. If off-island teams can come to Hanapepe and get a taste of what a national and respected sports magazine touts as the fifth best venue to watch a football game, why should they be denied? It could be one ounce of incentive for off-island high schools to bring their football programs to Kaua’i during the preseason.

Some may say it’s a proximity issue – these people have lived on Kaua’i for too long.

De La Salle and Marin Catholic, high schools based in the Bay Area, have to travel 40 miles to play each other. De La Salle buses it down to Long Beach (5 hour drive) to take on the second best prep football team in the nation, so I’m sure both on and off-island teams can handle the 20-40 minute drive from Lihue or Kapa’a to Hanapepe. I wouldn’t say parking is the best around the field, but I seem to find a space each time I go there, and my car is always there when I’m on my way out.

The truth: Waimea has built a program that deserves a home field. If the county or the KIF had deemed the stadium unfit for play, Waimea, in taking in decent revenue for each game it plays, should have its only home field revamped.

Waimea fans have created an atmosphere worthy of non-regular season football games and at this moment, the County acknowledges that the Stadium is ready to go for the upcoming season.

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