Pro Bowl recovery
POSTED: Friday, March 06, 2009
The state's and city's highest leaders praised the Hawaii Tourism Authority yesterday for reaching an agreement with the National Football League to bring the Pro Bowl back to the state.
Key elements of the state's two-year Pro Bowl contract:
» The NFL may require Hawaii to hold the 2011 Pro Bowl the week before the Super Bowl; however, it will make the decision after evaluating how this timing works at the 2010 game in Miami.
» The two-year deal will cost the Hawaii Tourism Authority $4 million per game and an additional $145,000 for the stadium game-day operations in 2011. Stadium operations will cost $152,250 in 2012.
» If the turf at Aloha Stadium is not adequate, the NFL and the HTA will make needed repairs.
» The HTA will get two 30-second nationally televised advertising spots.
Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority, National Football League
However, some on the sidelines questioned whether the game would return enough marketing opportunities and revenue to the state's struggling visitor industry.
Lt. Gov. James R. "Duke" Aiona Jr. and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann both campaigned hard to get HTA board members to sign a two-year deal that will cost the state $4 million per game and another $297,250 for the stadium game-day operations. In return the state will get two 30-second marketing spots on national TV.
HTA Vice Chairwoman Sharon Weiner and HTA board members Vernon Char and Stephen Yamashiro—who had previously questioned the value of using state money to host the Pro Bowl in Hawaii—reversed their stance yesterday and cast the necessary votes to approve the contract. However, HTA board member Kyoko Kimura steadfastly voted no on the measure.
"I just felt that the money could be used more effectively elsewhere," Kimura said.
If the same amount of money were put into marketing initiatives for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau or other sporting events like the widely televised Professional Golf Association tournaments, the state would see greater returns, she said. While the Pro Bowl brought 24,000 visitors to Hawaii and generated $28.6 million in visitor spending and $2.9 million in state taxes this year, other sporting events, like the Honolulu Marathon, bring more visitors and money.
Last year's Honolulu Marathon generated more than $100 million in visitor spending and $4.2 million in state taxes, said Hawaii Pacific University professor Jerry Agrusa, who authored the Honolulu Marathon economic impact study.
"The difference is that the Honolulu Marathon is a participatory event, and most of the runners and walkers who come for the events are from outside of Hawaii," Agrusa said.
And, unlike state-subsidized events such as the Pro Bowl, the Maui Marathon, the Hawaii International Billfish Tournament and the Ford Ironman World Championships, the Honolulu Marathon is totally self-supporting, said Pat Bigold, Honolulu Marathon spokesman.
Yamashiro, who originally voted no, said he was swayed by Hannemann's passion.
"I still have some reservations, but I have tremendous respect for Mayor Hannemann," he said. "I would have written the contract a little differently, but in the end I think this will be the best decision for Hawaii."
Keith Vieira, senior vice president of operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts-Hawaii & French Polynesia, said Kyoto's vote best represented the economic interests of Hawaii's visitor industry.
"From a purely economic standpoint, the Pro Bowl doesn't make sense. The Pro Bowl returns $2.9 million in state taxes; however, it costs us more than $4 million," Vieira said.
Vieira said that he would have encouraged the HTA to seek greater marketing or promotional concessions from the NFL before signing a contract; however, he is still glad that they did.
"This kind of game is too important to the community to lose," he said. "It comes down to more than economics."
That is why Aiona made a rare appearance yesterday at the HTA to urge members to keep the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. He, like Hannemann, also met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in February and has spoken with him numerous times about the Pro Bowl's status in Hawaii and the possibility of adding a college all-star game in Hawaii and bringing an NFL preseason game to Aloha Stadium.
"I commend the HTA for having the wisdom to reconsider their previous decision and return the Pro Bowl to Hawaii where it belongs," Aiona said. "Let us now move forward and work closely with the NFL to make the Pro Bowl's homecoming the best possible."
The NFL agreed to bring back the post Super Bowl game to Hawaii in 2011 and 2012 pending the success of the 2010 game in Miami.
Frank Supovitz, the NFL's senior vice president of events, said the organization was pleased to continue its 30-plus-year partnership with Hawaii.
"By placing the Pro Bowl in Hawaii on a rotational basis, we will be able to make the game and its surrounding events even more accessible to our fans on the mainland while maintaining our ties to the state," Supovitz said. "We will also work with the state to continue our charitable grants and player visit programs during the year the Pro Bowl is off island."
Hannemann, who has had a relationship with the Pro Bowl since the 1990s and was instrumental in swinging the HTA vote, said he was pleased with yesterday's results.
"It's the third time we were up to bat, and we brought it home," said Hannemann. "I shudder to think what the impact would have been if we had struck out again. The message, if we couldn't have kept a game of that caliber in Hawaii, would have been bad for business, especially in this tough economy."
Hannemann continues to work with the NFL to have a Pro Bowl presence in Hawaii next year, he said.
"The 2010 game may be played in Miami, but there's no reason why we still can't have a Pro Bowl week in Hawaii," he said. "The players love Hawaii, and I'm working with them to set up football clinics and other events that week."