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HTA scorned for not making Pro Bowl deal


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POSTED: Friday, February 27, 2009

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has drawn criticism from the state and city for rejecting an NFL contract that would have brought the Pro Bowl to the state for two more years and for electing to reopen negotiations, which could cost Hawaii the game.

While the Pro Bowl will be held in Miami in 2010, the NFL had offered Hawaii a chance at hosting the game in 2011 and 2012 at a cost of $4 million per game. In addition to the community events surrounding the game, the state would have been given two 30-second marketing spots on national TV.

Six out of 10 HTA members voted in favor of accepting the contract; however, the motion failed because it did not have the required seven votes, said HTA Chairman Kelvin Bloom. A motion to reopen negotiations with the HTA carried by a vote of 7-3, Bloom said.

Bloom said that he was personally disappointed by the vote and that there's no question in his mind that the Pro Bowl belongs in Hawaii.

“;The state has long enjoyed the benefits and I hope that we'll continue to do so,”; he said. “;I'm concerned about losing the game. We've been engaged in negotiations with the NFL for quite a few months and there is some risk involved in not accepting this contract.”;

The HTA board rejected the contract because it specified that the 2011 game would be held a week before the Super Bowl and left the game date open for 2012. Since previous Pro Bowl games had been held following the Super Bowl, the HTA board is asking the NFL to provide proof that viewership would be equal or greater to the last three games in Hawaii before agreeing to the change.

Even with those stipulations, HTA vice chairwoman Sharon Weiner and HTA board members Vernon Char and Kyoko Kimura voted against further negotiations.

“;My concern is that with the economics of the situation and the projections for (transient accommodations tax) that I'm reluctant to commit these kinds of funds for two to three years out,”; Char said.

While this month's Pro Bowl brought 24,230 visitors to Hawaii and generated $28.6 million in spending, as well as $2.9 million in state taxes, Char said that the HTA should explore other sports initiatives.

“;The Honolulu Marathon doesn't get any money, but it's just fantastic,”; Char said. “;We could look at building soccer and other sports programs, too.”;

HTA board member Stephen Yamashiro said that he recognizes the Pro Bowl's importance, but wants to make sure that if Hawaii hosts the game it gets good marketing returns in exchange for its dollars.

“;I want to make sure that this is money well spent,”; Yamashiro said.

Given the competitive nature of Pro Bowl negotiations, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann criticized the HTA for failing to approve the NFL's latest offer.

“;Clearly, today's vote was the wrong one,”; Hannemann said. “;We cannot continue to have negative messages emanating from Hawaii during these challenging economic times. Hopefully, we'll have another chance, since this is the second time the HTA has rejected the NFL's offer.”;

The Pro Bowl needs to come back to Hawaii, Hannemann said.

“;The NFL All-Star game is a sporting event unlike any other, and one we need to have,”; he said. “;The Pro Bowl provides Hawaii thousands of visitors, worldwide television exposure, and contributions to local charities and nonprofit organizations. The game itself and the events that surround it are also very popular with residents throughout the state.”;

Lt. Gov. James R. “;Duke”; Aiona Jr. also criticized the HTA's decision to continue negotiations.

“;The people of Hawaii want an agreement, and it is time to deliver,”; Aiona said.