Pro Bowl could return to Hawaii

Updated: March 2, 2009, 11:48 PM ET
Associated Press

HONOLULU -- Under pressure to bring the Pro Bowl back to Hawaii, the state tourism board is expected to reverse itself and accept the NFL's offer to play the all-star game in the islands in 2011 and '12.

This time, the Hawaii Tourism Authority will probably approve the $4 million per year offer, which fell one vote short last week, said board chairman Kelvin Bloom. It was the second time the board turned down the NFL's proposal.

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"I'm certainly hopeful of that," Bloom said following a Monday hearing with the Hawaii House Tourism Committee. "The odds are in our favor."

Since Thursday's vote, the NFL rejected a counteroffer from the state, he said. The authority will revote on the previous bid Friday.

"We would like to return to Hawaii and we stand behind our offer," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement Monday.

The proposed deal would bring the game back to Hawaii in 2011, but it would be played the week before the Super Bowl instead of the week afterward.

The Pro Bowl will be played in Miami in 2010.

Tourism officials were worried that Pro Bowl attendance would drop off because players on Super Bowl-bound teams wouldn't play in an exhibition a week before the big game, Bloom said.

They asked the NFL to return the Pro Bowl to the weekend after the Super Bowl if viewership falls off, but the NFL refused to alter its offer, Bloom said.

Bloom said members of the tourism board may change their vote because of mounting public pressure to keep the Pro Bowl's 30-year tradition in Hawaii alive.

"The fact of the matter is that we can't afford to lose this game," Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann told the committee. "Just get it done. That's what the people want. This is a popular game, whether you're a football fan or not."

This year's Pro Bowl generated $28.6 million in spending and $2.9 million in taxes.

In each of the previous four Pro Bowls, the Hawaii Tourism Authority also paid $4 million to bring the game to Honolulu.

"The people of Hawaii and the NFL share a common goal: we want the Pro Bowl in Hawaii to be a big hit," said Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, who praised the decision to reconsider the NFL's offer.

Some board members previously said they were concerned that the money could have been better spent on tourism marketing rather than paying the NFL to use the state's facilities, especially at a time when the state's budget is running short.

"The majority of the members of the board are convinced of the economic benefit to the state," Bloom said. "It's in the NFL's best interest that the Pro Bowl be successful. ... Perhaps playing the game before the Super Bowl will be successful."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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