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Blaisdell Center awarded Shuttered Venue Operators Grant

Neal S. Blaisdell Center

HONOLULU – The Neal S. Blaisdell Center (Blaisdell Center) was recently awarded $3,056,261.58 from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, established by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Business, Nonprofits, and Venues Act and amended by the American Rescue Plan Act. 

The SVOG program opened an application process, administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Disaster Assistance, in early April 2021 to provide over $16 billion in aid to eligible businesses to offset the economic hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Blaisdell Center, which consists of the Arena, Exhibition Hall, Concert Hall and meeting rooms, was shutdown in March 2020 and suffered from substantial revenue losses, the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) applied for SVOG funds to replace revenues and support its recovery. Eligible applicants were able to qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue for 2019 of which Blaisdell received the full amount.

The pandemic completely closed the Blaisdell Center, which has provided the people of Hawai‘i with a diversity of community based events and entertainment, for the first time in its 57 year existence.

“The shutdown halted all live events for Hawai‘i and forced us to pivot our operations from supporting the production of live events to supporting the protection of our community from COVID-19,” said Mary Lewis, DES Events and Services Administrator.

Since March 2020, Blaisdell Center accommodated COVID-19 surge testing, Farm-to-Car and farmer’s market agriculture industry events, the City call center, a contact tracing hub and one of the State’s first and largest mass vaccination clinics. It transformed the Exhibition Hall and Arena to a TV studio and soundstage for six months and worked with other organizations who worked in “bubbles” to provide alternative revenue sources while complying with the safety guidelines and requirements under the City’s Emergency Order tiers.

“It has been a very difficult time for all, so we are very fortunate and pleased to receive the SVOG award to support our recovery as we emerge from this pandemic,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “We sincerely appreciate Mary’s initiative and strong leadership of the City’s efforts involved with this achievement.”

SVOG funds will be used to address the Blaisdell Center’s health and safety needs, facility repairs and improvements, equipment upgrades and operational cost recovery.


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