Hula Bowl returning
to Oahu

HONOLULU » The financially troubled Hula Bowl is returning to Honolulu for its 60th game after spending eight years on Maui.

The planned move, first reported in the Star-Bulletin on June 5, ends months of speculation that the annual college all-star game may be relocating to the mainland or possibly folding.

The 2006 Hula Bowl will be played at Aloha Stadium on Jan. 21, Mark Salmans, the game's president and chief operating officer, said in an e-mail to the Associated Press.

Stadium events manager Eugene Tokuhama said the Hula Bowl's application has been approved and a contract is being drafted. But it is not a done deal until the contract is signed and a deposit is paid, he said.

Tokuhama didn't have an estimate of how many tickets need to be sold for the game to break even. He said there always is a concern about hosting a struggling event.

"But we're trying to help them make it happen. We feel it's a good event with new management that can pull it through," he said.

The Hula Bowl moved to Maui in 1998 because of low attendance in Honolulu, where it was in direct competition with the Aloha Bowl, Oahu Bowl and the NFL's Pro Bowl.

Both the Aloha and Oahu bowls moved to the mainland, but the Hawaii Bowl was added in 2002 after the University of Hawaii complained about not receiving a postseason invitation after compiling a 9-3 season.

On Maui, the Hula Bowl was played at War Memorial Stadium, which is the size of a high school facility. It struggled with sponsorships, attendance and debt. It is currently owned by Dallas-based Overtime Sports Pacific, the third owner in the past four years.

The game's biggest cost was flying more than 100 football players from across the country to Maui and then housing them in an area where hotel room rates are among the highest in the United States. Similar travel costs would exist by moving the game to Honolulu, but there would be a larger fan base with thousands of tourists in nearby Waikiki and 70 percent of the state's 1.3 million population living here.

Recently, the Hula Bowl has failed to attract the nation's top college athletes, but the game has featured many who went on to become stars in the NFL.

Some of the past MVPs include: Dan Marino, Mike Ditka, Paul Hornung, Fran Tarkenton, Merlin Olsen, Tony Dorsett, Deion Sanders and Ricky Williams.

Jaymes Song of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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