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Hawaii tourism leaders lament loss of Pro Bowl to Florida

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    In this Jan. 31 photo, the all-star football players are introduced before the start of the NFL Pro Bowl football game at Aloha Stadium.

The president of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association said today the departure of the NFL’s Pro Bowl for Orlando, Florida, is a black eye to the state’s sports tourism sector.

Mufi Hannemann said it will be difficult to get the game to return. The former mayor of Honolulu said the state should have leveraged its longtime Pro Bowl relationship to bring a preseason game to the islands, he said.

“We lost a partnership with a major sports organization that helped us to be able to say to the world that we can and we do hold major sports attractions in Hawaii. This is just another black eye that adds to the shortcomings of late,” Hannemann said.

He listed the cancellation of a U.S. women’s soccer game after the players complained of poor field conditions at Aloha Stadium and the loss of professional golf tournaments as examples of setbacks.

Keeping the game in Hawaii would have helped the state give people another reason to visit, he said. The industry is always looking to give people a reason to travel here, not just for the weather and the culture, he said.

Three people with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the NFL would move the game to Orlando. The NFL is expected to announce the move during a news conference scheduled with ESPN in Florida on Wednesday.

Hawaii Tourism Authority spokeswoman Charlene Chan said the NFL has asked the agency to refrain from commenting until it announces its decision.

State Rep. Tom Brower said the game is important for the exposure it gives the state and for the people it brings to Hawaii, Brower said. It stings to lose the revenue, he said.

“That’s a sign that we need to compete harder,” Brower said, adding he hopes the game will return to Hawaii in the future.

The tourism authority, a state agency that promotes travel to Hawaii, paid the NFL $5 million to host the all-star game in Honolulu this past January. The agency’s contract with the NFL called for the tourism authority to pay another $5 million to bring the game back in 2017, but the deal allowed either side to back out by Tuesday.

The agency has said the television broadcast of the 2014 Pro Bowl gave Hawaii exposure worth $26.2 million. The game also brought 15,000 visitors to the islands.

Honolulu hosted the game for 30 years until the NFL moved it to Miami in 2010. It returned to the islands afterward, but it was held in Glendale, Arizona, in 2015.

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  • If it brought $26 million in what’s the problem of giving UH $3 million? Anyway use the $5 million for the rail or maybe the knuckleheads want to up the auntie to $10 million.

  • The Pro Bowl lost its luster and drawing power when the NFL changed the Super Bowl/Pro Bowl format to have the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl. It denied fans the opportunity to see the best of the NFL in one game because members of Super Bowl teams were not able to participate in the Pro Bowl as they were able to do before the format was changed. The Pro Bowl is now like watching the second string in action.

  • “This is just another black eye that adds to the shortcomings of late,” Hannemann said.

    Yes…this does, indeed, say something about the do nothing, non proactive, stuck in the ’60s, comfortable-being-below average, sun fried local government mentality.

    Eh…da tourists gonna keep coming so why do anything to enhance, improve and exceed expectations, brah?

    Could care less about the Pro Bore but yes, why didn’t the “leaders” use their so called leverage to at least get a pre season game??

    • SHOP–that’s a good idea about a preseason game–the “Pro” Bowl is nothing but a bunch of wannabes running around avoiding contact so they don’t get hurt!!

    • Who actually believes “Rail Fail” Mufi and what he has to say about the BORING Pro Bowl? As you and others pointed out. Superbowl players don’t compete and it is ONLY touch football. Not having the Pro Bowl is NOT a catastrophe for Hawaii. HOWEVER Mufi’s Oahu rail project IS A CATASTROPHE.

  • I’m sure there was a positive return on the $5 million investment. The Pro Bowl gave Hawaii a lot of prime time TV exposure to the mainland at a time of year when a lot of people are freezing and love looking at the sun, sand and surf shots during the televised game. But I wonder if this was the best return on the investment of $5 million?

  • No tears. At one time, the players loved to at least come to Hawaii on the NFL’s dime. No more. Many of the players now cancel out of the game because they don’t want to get hurt and they don’t find it interesting.

    That has translated into the ratings.

    You’re not getting publicity when no one is watching.

  • The HTA had lot of help from the State and City & County sealing it’s doom. Even though the game is flag football contest, the extreme traffic woes, lines, and deplorable stadium condition gave the NFL an easy out. Great work state and local government! Now you can refocus on botching the rail project more.

  • How much TV air time would $5,000,000 buy? Probably more than the 3-hour time slot given for the flag (or is it now touch) football game? It was once a very good game and week for both players and fans, but no more. Move on alrady and use the money wisely.

  • Wake folks…NFL (da bully) goes where it wants to go…save da $5 million where we can support growing popular cultural events like hula, paddling,hawaiian music, etc that the younger generation (tourists included) can relate to…The Pro Bowl was a shibai with flag football being played…really…showcasing the talents of the NFL’s best…ha ha…And Da Mayor wen kowtow to the NFL when he pushed for a private NFL drinking party at Kuhio Beach…and us locals could not attend..Da Mayor so easy to say yes to big corporations…including the NFL…we need real local leadership…

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