NFL finale in Honolulu will be extended

HONOLULU -- The 32 NFL team owners have voiced their approval of a deal that would keep the league's annual Pro Bowl in Hawaii through 2009, a Hawaii tourism official said.

A tentative agreement to keep the game in Hawaii another four years was announced in February, but a final contract has not yet been negotiated. The NFL's current contract with the state expires after the 2005 game.

Owners' approval came Wednesday at their annual meetings in Amelia Island, Fla.

"This is a significant step," said Larry Johnson, a Hawaii Tourism Authority board member. "The next step is just getting it all documented."

The Hawaii Tourism Authority -- which negotiated the contract -- estimated that last year's game brought more than 18,000 visitors to the state and generated $28 million in visitor spending.

Hawaii is scheduled to pay $5.6 million for the right to host the 2005 game, up from $5.3 million for this year's contest.