Lunas should host playoff games at Sue D. Cooley Stadium
When ESPN West Coast Anchor Neil “Mana” Everett sat in as the honorary public address announcer at Lahainaluna High School’s kickoff contest at Sue D. Cooley Stadium, he looked across the field and beyond to Lahaina Town and the roadstead channel to Lanai and commented, “It just doesn’t get any better than this.”
USA Today has rated Sue D. Cooley Stadium as one of the top high school athletic facilities in the nation.
The $8.5 million stadium has a Tartan Turf playing surface – the same one as used by several National Football League teams, including the Dallas Cowboys – state-of-the-art sound system and scoreboard, Musco Lighting and seating for 3,000-plus fans, who will be treated to a million dollar sunset each and every time they take a seat at Sue D. Cooley Stadium.
So what happens when the Lunas, who are the defending state champs, win their 11th straight Maui Interscholastic League championship and qualify for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II playoffs as the top-rated D-II team and number one seed? The Lunas travel to War Memorial Stadium to “host” Iolani in the semifinal round of the playoffs.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Year after year, sport after sport, Lahainaluna seems to always get the short end of the stick.
In this case, we’ve heard the same old excuses: your stadium is not outfitted for fiber optic broadcast, not enough seating, etc. But what it really comes down to is that the HHSAA doesn’t treat the Neighbor Island schools with the same economic consideration as it does for the Oahu programs.
When the Lunas travel to Honolulu for playoff games, they stay overnight – sometimes two – in hotels and school gymnasiums. The reason for this game being played at War Memorial, with kickoff slated for 6 p.m., is to accommodate Iolani – one of the wealthiest private schools in Hawaii – so that they can catch the last flight out of Kahului that night to return to Oahu.
So why not let the Iolani team stay in the Lahainaluna gym… or at Baldwin or Maui High? Why not create some revenue with the visiting team supporters staying at hotels here? Why not let the senior set and youngsters of the Luna faithful walk or take a short ride to Sue D. Cooley Stadium to enjoy the game? Why make them take the ever-frustrating drive to Wailuku that takes 45 minutes or more?
C’mon Man! Give us a fair shake next time around.