Miami tackles Pro Bowl
POSTED: Monday, December 29, 2008
The Pro Bowl is leaving Hawaii for Miami after February's game but could be back in 2011, sources close to the move told the Star-Bulletin.
A source said yesterday the National Football League all-star game will return to Honolulu on a rotating basis with mainland sites, but the streak of 30 consecutive Pro Bowls at Aloha Stadium - all sellouts at the 50,000-seat facility - ends Feb. 8.
The NFL did not officially confirm the move.
"Plans for future Pro Bowls are not final, but we have stated publicly several times that we are giving strong consideration to moving the Pro Bowl to the week before the Super Bowl," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an e-mail to the Star-Bulletin. "We also have been exploring playing future Pro Bowls at the site of the Super Bowl as well as in Honolulu."
But sources said the game will be played the week before the Super Bowl in Miami in 2010.
Gov. Linda Lingle expressed disappointment at the decision.
"I respect the NFL's decision to play the post-season all-star game in the same city as the Super Bowl, one week before the Super Bowl, on a one-year test basis," Lingle said in a written statement. "The senior leadership of the NFL told me explicitly that their decision had nothing to do with anything the state did or did not do, but was an opportunity to try something they had been talking about for years.
"I am optimistic that the Pro Bowl will return to Hawaii in 2011," she added.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said it was "no surprise" that the NFL would pull the Pro Bowl out of Honolulu in 2010, but was critical of the way state officials handled negotiations to keep the game here.
"I don't think it's necessarily bad news, because the NFL is saying, according to my talks with them, that they do want to keep Hawaii in the mix," Hannemann told reporters yesterday.
"We've been good for the Pro Bowl and for the NFL. There's no reason to believe that we cannot be a part of the mix and a part of the attraction in the future years."
The state pays the NFL about $4 million per year for hosting rights in the contract that ends with February's game. The Pro Bowl generates about $30 million in visitor spending and $3 million in state tax revenue, according to figures from the state.
The news is particularly bleak for the Honolulu Tourism Authority, with the local economy hard hit by the drop in tourism.
But HTA interim CEO Lloyd Unebasami said the NFL and the state might be close to a new deal for 2011 and beyond, with a conference call scheduled for today.
"About a week and a half ago, they told us to hang on," Unebasami said. "We're very optimistic it will be in Hawaii, but I guess not in 2010. It was an ongoing discussion, if 2010 would be here or not."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last February that too many players were opting out of the game and that it had become irrelevant.
"Having the game after the Super Bowl is somewhat anticlimactic," he told a small group of reporters.
Goodell is hoping that playing the game the week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl will rejuvenate interest.
Pro Bowlers playing in the Super Bowl will not take part, but Goodell is counting on the star power throughout the league to offset that obvious conflict.
A source also confirmed the game is headed back to ESPN. Under the current contract, the network hosting the Super Bowl also gets the Pro Bowl one week later. This year it is NBC's turn to show the game.