Saturday, July 24, 1999

H A W A I I _ S P O R T S

‘Worst sports city’
ranking rankles

Bowl Games of Hawaii director
Lenny Klompus and Russ Francis say
the rating presents a challenge

By Pat Bigold


Honolulu's ranking as the worst sports city in North America by The Sporting News annoyed two of Hawaii's sports gurus.

The Sporting News list ranked 351 cities and placed New York City first.

"I think it's pretty sad," said Lenny Klompus, executive director of Bowl Games of Hawaii. "It's ludicrous."

Russ Francis, sports coordinator of the state Department of Business and Economic Development, said it made no sense to put cities like Normal, Ala., Woodbridge, Va., Burlington, Iowa, and Beloit, Wisc., ahead of a city with so many highly visible events.

Francis said TSN put too much emphasis on "the big four" sports of football, baseball, basketball and hockey in making the list.

He said it challenges Honolulu to make its own sports culture more visible.

"I think it was a very subjective ranking," said Klompus, who with his wife, Marcia, stages the Aloha, Oahu and Hula bowls. "The Sporting News has been very good to us in the past. But there's something wrong with this list because we have a lot more major events than some of the cities above us."

Francis, who plans to write a letter to The Sporting News, said, "There's a perception that Hawaii is not pro-active in developing its diversified sports culture."

He said TSN's list gives Hawaii a reason to dispell that perception and do a better job of marketing its special sports culture. But he said if Honolulu takes ribbing across the nation for its place in the list, he expects there will be former tourists shaking their heads.

"There will be people reading that who will say, 'Are you kidding me?' " he said.

Francis said events like the Ironman Triathlon and the Honolulu Marathon, as well as martial arts, swimming and volleyball events his state agency is fostering should have figured into consideration along with traditional bowl events and PGA tournaments.

Here is the explanation TSN gave for Honolulu's ranking:

"OK, OK, we DO say that climate and non-sports activities factor into where a city lands in our list. But paradise this ain't for a sports fan. Beyond major-tour golf and the bowls, Aloha and Pro, Honolulu is adrift in a world gone mad for the Big Six. Hockey? Sorry. Pro basketball? Nope. Baseball? The Islanders, a Pacific Coast League entry, are long, long gone, and so, by the way, is University of Hawaii football coach Fred vonAppen, fired after last season's 12-game oh-fer. The 'Bows basketball team managed a 6-20 season. But take heart, Hawaii sports fans, there's always Benny Agbayani."

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