"I wouldn't want to see the game move to the mainland, because of the history and tradition. It belongs in Hawaii."
Leo Goeas
Former Kamehameha, UH and NFL offensive lineman who played in the Hula Bowl

Hula Bowl’s future
on the line Saturday

If the game is not successful
financially, its owners will
look at moving it from Maui

WAILEA, Maui » Saturday's Hula Bowl could be the last one played on Maui, one of the game's owners said yesterday.

"It all depends on how it goes here (Saturday)," said Dick Schaller, who is also the college football all-star game's development coordinator. "This game is a key one, it really is. If it's not successful (financially), we will have to look at moving the game. It could be back to Oahu, it could be to the mainland."

Schaller, who was the game's president and sole owner in 2003 and 2004, said the he lost around $400,000, mostly due to low attendance at War Memorial Stadium in Wailuku.

Schaller took on ownership partners (Mark and Mindy Salmans and Kenny Hansmire) and a major sponsor (Credit Unions of America) after last year's game. Also, ESPN continues to pay an undisclosed amount for television rights. But attendance is the key, Schaller said.

Last year's game drew fewer than 10,000 fans, he said. Schaller said more than 7,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday's game, and the pace is ahead of last year.

The game is banking on the drawing power of local University of Hawaii stars Tim Chang, Chad Owens, Lui Fuga and Uriah Moenoa, Schaller said. Chang, Fuga and Moenoa practiced with their West teammates yesterday, and Owens was expected to arrive on Maui last night. Owens' agent said the exciting receiver and kick returner has sore ribs from last Saturday's East-West Shrine game, and there's a possibility he won't play in the Hula Bowl (see Notebook, B5).

Also, Maui County officials are expected to decide within the next day or two if beer can be sold at the game. Beer sales would add to paid attendance -- and obviously concession sales -- Schaller said.

Several college all-star games compete for top players and the attention of NFL scouts. While the Hula Bowl has not drawn many of the biggest names in recent years (most high-round prospects play in the NFL-sponsored Senior Bowl), scouts from all NFL teams still come to Maui to grade mostly mid-range prospects.

The Hula Bowl does not receive financial support from the NFL.

"None at all. That's something we'd definitely like," Schaller said. "We did have a cross promotion with the Pro Bowl, but that didn't work well for us because people went to the Pro Bowl (at Aloha Stadium on Oahu) but didn't come to the Hula Bowl."

The Hula Bowl also has cross-promotional deals with the American Football Coaches Association and the Heisman Trophy selection committee.

This is not the first time the Hula Bowl has been in financial straits. Former owners Lenny and Marcia Klompus moved it to Maui after the 1997 game. Attendance had dwindled at Aloha Stadium, as the game competed for ticket-buyers with the Aloha and Oahu Bowls, as well as the Pro Bowl.

An enthusiastic, sports-minded Maui business community has helped support the game, but not enough to keep it in the black financially. And ticket-buying fans are hard to come by.

Hula Bowl promotional material claims "a sellout crowd" of 23,000 fans for the 2002 and 2003 games. Attendance at War Memorial Stadium is difficult at best to track, though, and it is unclear how many of the people counted as attendees paid for tickets.

Former Kamehameha, University of Hawaii and NFL offensive lineman Leo Goeas played in the Hula Bowl. He is now a player agent.

"I wouldn't want to see the game move to the mainland, because of the history and tradition. It belongs in Hawaii, and if they do move it, it definitely has to have a name change," he said. "The possibility of moving it to Oahu may be a good thing. But I don't know the details of how that might make it better or worse financially."

The first Hula Bowl was played in 1947. From that year to 1959, college all-stars played Hawaii all-stars. From 1951 to 1959, NFL players augmented the Hawaii roster. Beginning in 1960, two teams of college all-stars played each other, except for 1994 when college stars once again played Hawaii stars.

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