The Hawaii Convention Center is beautiful and was officially dedicated on October 15, 1997, after many years of debate and political intrigue. At the time, I was on Governor Ben Cayetano’s staff helping to advance the project in the midst of a major economic downturn when the location was finally selected and the land purchase took place.
Comparing it to Central Park in New York City, the visionary Governor Cayetano proposed that the Ala Wai golf course be repurposed as a park and the Convention Center constructed there but the golfers organized and that idea was “dead on arrival.”
The story of how and from whom the land at the corner of Kalakaua Avenue and Atkinson Drive was finally acquired is a long story of its own and I’ll leave that saga for another day. Suffice to say, the Indonesian owner first sold the land to one of his own companies at an inflated price and that company attempted to resell it to the state at an even more inflated price. As I recall, The land had been badly contaminated by petroleum products from its earlier use as an automobile service station and that added to the initial construction costs.
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