Hawaii accepts NFL's Pro Bowl offer
HONOLULU -- The Pro Bowl is returning to Hawaii.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority board voted 9-1 on Friday to accept the NFL's offer to return to the islands.
The board rejected two previous proposals, but under mounting pressure reconsidered its latest refusal to pay the NFL $4 million a year to host the all-star game at Aloha Stadium in 2011 and 2012.
"We are pleased to continue our partnership with the state of Hawaii, which has embraced the Pro Bowl for 30 years," Frank Supovitz, the NFL's senior vice president of events, said in a statement.
Supovitz said placing the Pro Bowl in the islands on a rotational basis will maintain its ties to Hawaii while making it more accessible to fans on the mainland.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona testified in favor of returning the Pro Bowl, saying "Hawaii is the Pro Bowl.
"San Francisco has the 49ers, Denver has the Broncos ... Hawaii has the Pro Bowl," Aiona said during his brief presentation.
A similar proposal was rejected a week ago by the board. The NFL then turned down the state's offer to completely rework another deal. However, the NFL agreed to possibly return the Pro Bowl to the Sunday after the Super Bowl depending on the success, or failure, of the 2010 game in Miami.
"Now we do have the option of the Pro Bowl going back to the traditional after the Super Bowl date if 2010 isn't successful," board chairman Kelvin Bloom said.
Bloom said that was a key point in the board approving the bid.
The board last week expressed concerns that attendance and viewership could drop because of the NFL's experiment to move the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl. That would essentially eliminate Super Bowl players from participating in the all-star game.
The board also had expressed concern about spending millions amid the economic downturn.
But five board members switched their "no" votes from last week, when the board voted 6-4 against the proposal.
"I have made some mistakes in the past and maybe this is one of them," said board member Stephen Yamashiro.
Yamashiro said he was lobbied "passionately" in the past week by Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who also contacted other board members.
Board member Sharon Weiner was one of the most vocal opponents last week, but also reversed her vote.
In an interview, Weiner said she realized the benefits to the community after talking with officials in the hotel and airline industry, as well as Hannemann. But she's still concerned about devoting so much money from a budget that has been cut from to $71 million from $88 million in the past year.
"We don't know what our budget is going to be in 2011, so we're committing to a budget that we don't know what will be. So there's real risks here for us," Weiner said. "We needed to consider, reconsider and make sure we've handled all of the considerations before we made this very important decision."
Kyoko Kimura, a hotel executive from Maui, cast the only vote against the Pro Bowl proposal.
Kimura didn't raise any objections during the brief discussion before the vote. After the meeting, she said the Pro Bowl's economic and community benefits is not felt on the island outside Oahu.
Last month's Pro Bowl generated $28.6 million in spending and $2.9 million in taxes. It also helped market the state, which is heavily dependent on tourism.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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