Pro Bowl may skip '08 here
The NFL All-Star game may go abroad, then return
The NFL's executive in charge of the Pro Bowl said yesterday the league's All-Star game might skip a year in Hawaii as soon as 2008.
Frank Supovitz, the NFL senior vice president of events, confirmed what the Star-Bulletin reported in April, when retiring commissioner Paul Tagliabue said, "Important NFL events such as the Pro Bowl" might be played outside of the United States in the future.
PRO BOWL 2007
Who: AFC vs. NFC all-stars
Where: Aloha Stadium
When: Saturday, Feb. 10, 1 p.m.
Tickets: Call (877)-750-4400 or got to www.Ticketmaster.com or nfl.com
Voting: At NFL.com
The 2007 Pro Bowl is set for Aloha Stadium on Feb. 10 (on Saturday instead of the usual Sunday the week after the Super Bowl) and the state is contracted with the NFL for two more Pro Bowls after this one. But the one in two months might be the last in a string of 28 in a row at Aloha Stadium going back to 1980.
"We're always looking at new opportunities, we're always looking at new possibilities. We're globalizing the game. So there are those possibilities," Supovitz said. "We have the ability to move the game on a one-year basis at any point during the contract and then extend the contract to 2010."
China, Japan, Australia and Europe are among possible future Pro Bowl locations. There have also been discussions among team owners about regular-season games outside of the U.S.
Supovitz indicated the NFL wants to continue its Pro Bowl relationship with Hawaii.
"We're going to be engaging in conversations shortly with the state about extending the agreement," Supovitz said. "I think that's in everybody's interest to get those conversations started rather than waiting for the end of the contract."
The state pays the NFL around $4 million per year for hosting rights. The Pro Bowl generates around $30 million in visitor spending and $3 million in state tax revenue, according to figures from the state.
Supovitz spoke at an event billed as a news conference yesterday that included more local government and sports officials than reporters. Gov. Linda Lingle, Mayor Mufi Hannemann, Hawaii Tourism Authority president Rex Johnson, University of Hawaii athletic director Herman Frazier and Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya were among those in attendance.
Before a presentation highlighting the game-week activities for this year, Lingle, Hannemann and others thanked the NFL for positive economic and social impact.
"It's real significant for us," Lingle said.
Hannemann helped negotiate contracts to keep the Pro Bowl in Hawaii in the 1990s.
He said, "I don't know where they are," when asked how far along the NFL is in planning a Pro Bowl away from Hawaii.
"The reason is the NFL is looking for global opportunities. That's why I made the point I made today, that we can't sit back and be content," Hannemann said. "We have to be innovative, be creative and show that we aren't taking it for granted."
One example of that is coordination with the DOE to allow fifth-graders to attend the Ohana Day activities on Friday as an educational opportunity, the day before the game. Since this year's game is on Saturday instead of Sunday, last year's popular Ohana Day is now on a school day. Officials are also working to expand the Pro Bowl's official Tailgate Party, which sells out every year. There will also be a block party in Waikiki.
The NFL is refurbishing the 4-year-old FieldTurf surface at 30-year-old Aloha Stadium, as well as assisting in replacing seats in the stadium as part of its current contract.
"I think Aloha Stadium and the Stadium Authority recognize that it needs to catch up to the times like every venue does. That's nothing unusual," Supovitz said. "We're contributing to that effort and clearly we hope those efforts continue. It does need work. As the governor said, we're helping to push to make it better."
Supovitz confirmed a group has approached the league about a future Super Bowl in Hawaii. Current infrastructure and NFL parameters make the undertaking unlikely.
"Super Bowls are always played in a host city that hosts an NFL team. That hasn't changed. That's not to say it won't at some future date. We haven't gotten to that point yet. I can't tell you what we'd be prepared to commit if we did that," Supovitz said. "It's not generally an investment that we would make, but usually an investment that the community would make, to have their stadium at the standard to host a Super Bowl.
In many ways, the NFL considers Honolulu a franchise city, but that won't help it get the big game.
"There are an enormous number of investments, not just within the stadium ... the city infrastructure," Supovitz said. "We haven't really spent any time putting pen to paper on it. I participated in a conversation, but I can't tell you with whom."