HONOLULU — The state on Thursday named two teams of bidders as finalists to develop the 98-acre New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District project in Halawa.

One of the two “priority-listed offerors,” Aloha Halawa District Partners and Waiola Development Partners, will be tabbed to design, construct, operate and maintain a new 25,000-seat stadium, plus 4,500 units of housing and other amenities.

According to a NASED news release, the selection of the finalists was ahead of the schedule laid out last year upon the project's restart. It said the goal of a new stadium for the start of the 2028 University of Hawaii football season remains on target. In the early stages of NASED, a new stadium was called for by 2023.

The oft-delayed project, in one sense, is back to the stage it was at in late 2020, when three teams were announced as finalists. But unlike before, there is agreement between the Stadium Authority and the governor’s office on how to proceed; a Request For Proposals was issued in December. The state legislature has committed $400 million to the new stadium, but the eventual master developer must front the rest of the cost in exchange for exclusive rights.

“We were very pleased with the response to the qualifications phase of the RFP,” Stadium Authority chair Brennon Morioka said in the release. “The level of interest by potential bidders demonstrated the attractiveness of NASED. And the quality of the priority-listed offerors gives us confidence that the NASED project will result in not just a new stadium but a revitalized community we can all be proud of.”

An undisclosed number of bidders submitted their initial proposal by a Feb. 14 deadline. They were scored on a handful of criteria by a “specialist evaluation committee” appointed by the state. Criteria included “administrative response” and technical topics like project understanding, team structure and governance, experience and finance.

The two consortiums will now submit their full proposals with a deadline of summer 2024. The state’s previously announced timeline calls for Gov. Josh Green’s NASED team to select a “preferred offeror” by fall 2024 and execute a contract in summer 2025.

Waiola Development Partners and Aloha Halawa District Partners are comprised of similar, but not identical, local and national entities as the previous version of the project.

Brian McInnis covers the state's sports scene for Spectrum News Hawaii. He can be reached at brian.mcinnis@charter.com.