NFL's annual Pro Bowl game could be going foreign
Following up on multiple reports by ESPN.com, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin has reported that the all-star game could be moved outside of Hawaii, perhaps as early as 2008, as part of the contract between the league and the state.
ESPN.com reported twice in recent months that the current contract, which calls for three more games in Honolulu, through the 2009 contest, permits the NFL the option to play one game at another site. If the league exercises that option, the contract with Hawaii will be extended by one year, through 2010.
"We're always looking at new opportunities. We're always looking at new possibilities," NFL senior vice president of special events Frank Supovitz told the Star-Bulletin. "We're globalizing the game, so there are those possibilities. We have the ability, one a one-year basis, to move the game at any point during the current contract."
Among the alternate sites under consideration are China, Japan, Australia and Europe. Several league owners told ESPN.com that, if the game is moved, London is the most likely site. The league will stage a preseason game in China next summer as part of that country's run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.
It is not known how well a move from Hawaii, even for one year, would sell with players. Many players don't care for the long trip to Honolulu in February, right after the end of the season, and a potentially longer trek might be even less well received.
Even if the NFL relocates the all-star game for one year, Hawaii is likely to remain its long-term home, and the league hopes to extend its relationship with the state. Negotiations on extending the contract probably will begin in coming months.
State officials concede, however, they can't afford to take their relationship with the league for granted and must consider ways to broaden the Pro Bowl festivities and to upgrade 30-year-old Aloha Stadium, which is definitely showing signs of age. The NFL is currently assisting in some of the renovations.
"It does need work," Supovitz said of the stadium.
The game generates approximately $30 million yearly in economic impact and $3 million in state tax revenue, according to the Star-Bulletin. The state pays the NFL $4 million annually for the hosting rights.
This year's game, scheduled for Feb. 10, will be the 28th straight Pro Bowl in Honolulu. The game will be played on a Saturday for only the second time.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .