1926 … Aloha Tower was completed; construction begins on the Richards Street YWCA building; Sanford Dole, former president of the Republic of Hawaiʻi, died … and the Honolulu Stadium was completed.
“Thursday afternoon (November 11, 1926,) at 2:30, the University football team plays against the (Schuman’s Townies) team for the football championship of the Territory of Hawaii. The title fight will be the first game to be played in the newly erected Honolulu Stadium. How about winnnig that game?”
“For three years we have won every game which we played. … Are we to lose the first game to be played in the Stadium, as well as the championship of the islands? We must not. We will not. “The Fighting Deans” shall not be outfought. We’ve got to win that game!” (Editorial in Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi, November 10, 1926) UH lost, 14–7.
But let’s step back a bit.
We first need to introduce John Ashman Beaven (born at Oswego, New York on October 31, 1869, son of John Hort and Rebecca (Ashman) Beaven,) a newspaperman from Upstate New York. He arrived in Honolulu in 1910 and became Hawaiʻi’s first sports promoter.
In 1912, he established the Oʻahu Baseball League, O‘ahu Service Athletic League and the Catholic Youth Organization. In 1917, he leased land and built Moʻiliʻili Field on King Street; the baseball teams, as well as the football league played there.
In 1925, Beaven purchased 14-fee simple acres at the ‘ewa/makai corner of King and Isenberg streets and built the Honolulu Stadium (across from Moʻiliʻili Field.). From 1925 to 1939, he was general manager of the stadium. (HawaiiSportsHallOfFame)
Honolulu Stadium was maintained by Honolulu Stadium Ltd, a company Beaven formed on September 9, 1926. It was built, owned and operated by private interests. Five years later the UH bought it from them.
Beginning in 1936, many shareholders donated their stock to the university of Hawaii to build the Scholarship Loan Fund. The University of Hawaii also purchased stock, with Board of Regents authorization. (DLNR)
The Honolulu Stadium opened on November 11, 1926. It served as one of the major recreational outlets for Honolulu; events held at the stadium included a wide spectrum of activities: football, baseball, stock car racing, boxing, reIigious ceremonies, carnivals and concerts. (DLNR)
Hawaiʻi’s first night game was held at the Honolulu Stadium in 1930; the UH Rainbows defeated Hackmen of Neal Blaisdell’s Honolulu Athletic Club (28-0.) (Cisco)
The stadium hosted Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio (who hit a home run out of the park in 1944) and Jesse Owens. Irving Berlin performed in 1945, Elvis Presley performed in 1957, while Billy Graham preached in 1958.
It was the home of the Rainbows of University of Hawaiʻi (1926-1975,) the Hawaiians of the World Football League (1974) and the Hawaiʻi Islanders of the Pacific Coast League (1961 to 1975.)
April 20, 1961, Honolulu Stadium hosted the first game of the new home-team Hawaiʻi Islanders, a minor-league pro baseball franchise of the Pacific Coast League. (The Islanders beat the Vancouver Mounties 4-3.)
On the morning after the UH Rainbows defeated the Willamette Bearcats, 20-6, in the Shrine Game in front of a sold-out Honolulu Stadium crowd, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor (1941.) Football was on hold through the 1945 season.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, before Hawaii Raceway Park came into existence, they raced stock cars in Honolulu Stadium. It was a multipurpose stadium, used for baseball, football and track and field events. The dirt race track ran around the outside of the football field. (Fulton)
The stadium was also the venue for the Poi Bowl (1936-1939,) Pineapple Bowl (1940-1952) and Hula Bowl (1947-1974.)
In 1969, the Hula Bowl’s first sellout crowd watched USC’s Heisman Trophy winning tailback OJ Simpson set a Hula Bowl record with an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. (I was downstairs getting a hot dog at the concession and heard the crowd go wild.)
The stadium sat about 24,000-people; it had only about 80-parking stalls. You parked where you could and walked as far as you needed in order to get to whatever was happening there at the time.
It was made of wood … “It creaked, actually creaked, like it was alive; (it was) kinda spooky,” says Larry Price (star-bulletin)
Its wood construction led to its later moniker; “A somewhat famous example of a termite problem gone out of control is the old Honolulu Stadium, known affectionately as the ‘Termite Palace.’ The stadium was found to be severely termite-damaged”. (hawaii-edu)
In January of 1971, the Stadium Board announced the decision to close the stadium after the 1973 Hula Bowl game.
On April 11, 1974, the legislature passed a supplement budget authorization for the state to purchase the stadium for public recreational use; that year, the stadium property was sold to the State. (DLNR)
The Honolulu Stadium was demolished in 1976, after Aloha Stadium was completed in Halāwa; the former site of the Termite Palace is now a public park.