Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The NFC's Shaun Alexander, trailed by Matt Birk, did a touchdown dance after running one in during Sunday's Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium. The NFL and the state have agreed in principle to keep the all-star game here for at least five more years, sources say.

Pro Bowl
staying here

An "agreement in principle" will
keep the NFL all-star game in
Hawaii for five more years at
less of a cost to isle taxpayers

The NFL and the state of Hawaii have reached an "agreement in principle" to keep the Pro Bowl in Hawaii for at least another five years, and at a lower cost to taxpayers, a key negotiator in contract meetings said yesterday.


"Talks continue to go very well," Larry Johnson, of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said after meeting with other state and NFL negotiators. "We're very optimistic that we will have something very important and positive for the state for the next five years."

Aloha Stadium has hosted the NFL's All-Star game with sellout crowds the past 25 years, including Sunday's record-setting 55-52 victory by the NFC over the AFC.

In the current contract, which runs through next year's game, the state pays the NFL more than $5 million for hosting rights.

"That number will be less (in the new contract)," Johnson said.

Jim Steeg, NFL vice president in charge of special events, and Johnson stressed that many details still have to be worked out, and a finalized contract will take months to complete.

Steeg declined to comment about money.

"We've been talking about a bunch of ways to generate revenue," Steeg said. "We've made it past the 50-yard line, but we've still got to get to the goal line."

Johnson and Steeg said a key component to the new deal is new partnerships with the University of Hawaii athletic department, the stadium authority and the Hawaii Visitors & Conventions Bureau.

Johnson said UH will likely assist in operations, marketing and ticketing.

UH athletic director Herman Frazier and associate athletic director Tom Sadler have worked with the NFL in the past. They were associate athletic directors at Arizona State and were instrumental in coordinating the 1996 Super Bowl at the Fiesta Bowl, as well as other major events including an NCAA national championship football game.

"Tom and I have a long-standing relationship with Jim Steeg and the NFL," Frazier said recently. "There are some things we do that the Pro Bowl does that represents a duplication of efforts. Anything UH can do in conjunction with the HTA, the state, the stadium authority and the NFL to help, we're willing to do that. We have a department with some people with some outside ties."

Frazier was not available last night, but Sadler said UH looks forward to working with the NFL.

"We're excited about the opportunity, especially since we have a previous relationship," Sadler said. "Also, this nestles well with (UH President) Evan Dobelle's directive for us to be involved in the community."

Steeg said additional involvement from more entities will create "a lot of complexity because there are a bunch of parts to it."

"We will probably have four separate contracts. But we think it's an opportunity for all involved," Steeg said. "I've known Herman and Tom for a long time. They have a lot of experience. We are looking at ways to work together and enhance each other's efforts."

Last year's Pro Bowl attracted more than 18,000 visitors to Hawaii and generated up to $28 million in visitor spending, as well as $2.7 million in state taxes, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Reports surfaced last year that Orlando, Fla., and Los Angeles were interested in hosting the Pro Bowl.

NFL officials have consistently said they want to keep the game in Hawaii, although they have also spoken of how expensive an undertaking it is.

Most players enjoy the fact that the game is in Hawaii, although some have complained about a long flight after a long season.

The state paid around $800,000 and the NFL around $500,000 to install a new FieldTurf surface at Aloha Stadium last year. The installation satisfied a contract requirement that the Pro Bowl be played on grass or another surface to the NFL's liking.

The NFL will hold its postseason meetings on Maui next year.


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