Clock still ticking for Aloha Stadium as Pro Bowl host


POSTED: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

HAVING committed to move the next Pro Bowl to Miami, the National Football League is nearing a decision on when to return it to Aloha Stadium. That could include injecting a college all-star game in Hawaii and scheduling a preseason NFL game at the stadium. Those possibilities are new developments that would brighten Hawaii's uncertain future as a venue for pro football.

The Pro Bowl has been at home in Aloha Stadium as a post-Super Bowl all-star contest for three decades. The league's decision to schedule it next year a week before the Super Bowl at the same site in Miami was a blow to Hawaii sports aficionados and the tourism industry.

Players in this month's Pro Bowl were vocal in overwhelming agreement that Honolulu is an ideal post-season destination for them and their families. Future Super Bowl hosts understand that and are under no illusion that their stadiums will be two-game venues following next year's Miami experiment.

“;We'll be in Miami next year to see how it works out,”; said Dallas Cowboy icon Roger Staubach, part of the Dallas host committee for the 2011 Super Bowl. “;I'm glad we're not the first year. At least we'll have Miami to look at.”;

“;We are proceeding as though (the Pro Bowl) is not on the horizon for us,”; said Allison Melangton, head of the Indianapolis host committee for the 2012 Super Bowl.

Indeed, the NFL has proposed a return to Hawaii in 2011, according to Lloyd Unebasami of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, said in a news conference in Florida last month, “;We expect to continue to be in Hawaii. We expect it will be in rotation.”;

Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona discussed the possibilities with Goodell and told the Star-Bulletin that adding a college all-star game to the recipe is in the offing. That essentially would replace the Hula Bowl, which ended last year after 61 years.

Under consideration, he said, is creating a new all-star game or moving the NFL-sponsored Senior Bowl to Honolulu from Mobile Ala., where it has been played since 1951. The Senior Bowl is the most watched post-season college all-star game, with North and South teams comprised of the most desired NFL draft contenders and coached by staff from two NFL teams.

Aiona said such a college all-star match-up could be played the day before the Super Bowl, a week before the Pro Bowl. Next year's experiment should make clear that scheduling next year's Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl was a mistake, eliminating players from the Super Bowl teams from participation.