Dust Off Your Broomsticks! Quidditch Could Be Coming to the Hawaiʻi Convention Center
Buying portable million-dollar floors suitable for sports was a gamble for the Hawai‘i Convention Center. But it’s opened up a new international market for volleyball, basketball, indoor soccer—even Harry Potter’s favorite sport.
Photo: Hawaiʻi Convention Center/Keith Uehara
Creating a new market in Hawai‘i doesn’t happen every day—after sun, surf and Instagram-fueled extreme adventures, many of the biggest Island tourist draws tend to circle around hospitality and sightseeing tours. But what makes 9 million visitors a year pretty happy may not be the best formula for repeat business, sustainability and emergency responders.
That’s what makes the recent success of a new initiative at the Hawai‘i Convention Center notable. Back in 2016, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority greenlighted the center paying $1.1 million for portable, configurable sporting courts—puzzle-piece mosaics that can be installed in half an hour over a 204,000-square-foot portion of its exhibition space. It was a gutsy move: The center had been running a $3 million a year deficit for decades and had only edged into the black in 2015.
“It was me just basically going to a volleyball tournament in the Los Angeles Convention Center and seeing what a draw the indoor sport was,” says Teri Orton, who took over managing the facility in 2013. “I wondered if people would come to a leisure destination for the pre- and post-tournament. So, I did a little homework, almost two years of due diligence.”
A key moment came when a vice president of the Amateur Athletic Union basketball program took her under his wing. “He was gracious enough to show me everything it takes to run a tournament,” says Orton. She and her marketing and sales team honed their pitch, combining reasonable Waikīkī accommodations with a possible 28 volleyball, 18 basketball or 11 futsal courts (which can also be configured for cheerleading, gymnastics, badminton and more). “When we set up a booth at a sports relationship conference in Las Vegas, we were overwhelmed with interest.”
Business at the convention center has grown steadily over the past 18 months. “We average seven or eight sporting events a year,” says Orton. In January 2018, three national sports organizations signed four-year contracts for tournaments. But Orton has found some eye-popping new markets: yoga, dodgeball, evolution sports festivals and, did someone say Quidditch?
Orton laughs: “I had to ask, What the heck is Quidditch?” (About 100 colleges field teams.) “Hawai‘i sells itself”—and the vision of Harry Potter cosplayers packing the stands does indeed sound like Muggle magic.