Miss Universe pageant skipping Hawaii over the state of Blaisdell arena



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Published July 29, 2017 - 12:06am

By Allison Schaefers Tribune News Service

Efforts to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Honolulu this year — the 20th anniversary of when Hawaii’s Brook Lee was crowned — ended this week after pageant officials determined that the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena did not meet the event’s structural requirements.

Lee, who became the only Native Hawaiian to wear the crown when she won the 1997 pageant, had been working with a host committee to bring the event to Honolulu for a second time. Hawaii paid $3.3 million to host the 1998 pageant, which was then owned by President Donald Trump, to capitalize on the publicity generated from Lee crowning her successor in her home state.

City Enterprise Services Director Guy Kaulukukui said the department was contacted by Miss Universe representatives in May and had been working closely with “the pageant’s local and national representatives to accommodate their needs for the event and the days leading up to the actual show.”

The city had arranged for the pageant to use the arena for two weeks and the concert hall for one week in November, Kaulukukui said. But in recent days pageant organizers told the city that they were no longer considering the arena or Honolulu, he said.

Miss Universe officials did not return a call or an email from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; however, its website says competition sites are selected based on “city infrastructure and capabilities of the venue for production.”

Miss Universe has not announced its 2017 venue; however, according to news reports, earlier contenders included Australia, the Philippines and Las Vegas.

“It was determined by the pageant that the arena’s structural capacity for suspending overhead equipment above the stage area was insufficient for the show’s needs,” Kaulukukui said. “However, arena weight capacity has not been a limiting factor for shows staged in that venue over recent years, for example Bruno Mars, WWE, Diana Ross, Janet Jackson, Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey and more.”

Lee said Thursday that there were enough financial commitments to bring the event to Hawaii; however, the most recent global structural engineering analysis that the city could provide was from 1994. Paula Shugart, president of The Miss Universe Organization, sent an email to the Hawaii Tourism Authority on Wednesday saying that she was disappointed that the event could not be held in Hawaii and expressing concern about Blaisdell Arena.

“Our key rigger was sent to Hawaii this past Monday and his report yesterday was not favorable. He had serious cause for concern in the facility being able to structurally accommodate a show of our size. He could not in his professional capacity, sign off on the facility and in fact, indicated that there do not appear to be any up-to-date structural plans in existence,” Shugart said in the email, which has been widely circulated in political circles.

The Stan Sheriff Center, the only other site big enough for the event, was already unavailable for the pageant’s November dates, so the Blaisdell issue “brought everything to a halt,” said Rick Fried, HTA board chairman.

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