Hawaii says no to NFL's proposal for state to host Pro Bowl in 2011, 2012

HONOLULU -- The Hawaii Tourism Authority board on Thursday rejected the NFL's second proposal to return the Pro Bowl to the islands in 2011 and 2012.

However, the 10-member board approved a motion to renegotiate with the NFL, if the league is willing.

The board voted 6-4 against the proposal. It cited several concerns, primarily the NFL's decision to move its annual all-star game to a week before the Super Bowl and whether the $4 million to host each game could be better used for other purposes.

"We are faced with different economic conditions than we were in the past and a dire need to bring as many (tourists) to this destination as we can from every potential market," board member Sharon Weiner told the panel. "This $4 million, I believe from a marketing perspective, could be better leveraged with other programs."

Weiner added that moving the Pro Bowl one week before the Super Bowl would eliminate the "best players" from attending the all-star game. Weiner was among six board members who voted to reject the proposal. Seven votes were required to approve the NFL's bid.

Weiner also was one of three board members who voted not to return to talks with the NFL. The others were Vernon Char and Kyoko Kimura.

"It's committing today for the next two years," Char said after the board meeting. "I'm not willing to commit $4 million."

Kimura, the head of a resort on Maui, told the panel that the sentiment for the Pro Bowl on islands outside of Oahu is "very, very low."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league hadn't heard from the state and declined further comment.

However, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell earlier this month said he wanted the game to return to Hawaii on a rotating basis and that playing the game one week before the Super Bowl was designed to bring greater exposure. He said the Pro Bowl was an "anticlimactic" ending to the season.

It was the second time the board rejected the NFL's proposal. The board believed an earlier proposal was written too vaguely, only guaranteeing two Pro Bowls in a four-year span. The NFL returned with its latest proposal, guaranteeing the 2011 and 2012 games.

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona voiced his disappointment with the board's decision and "strongly" encouraged the Hawaii Tourism Authority to continue negotiations with the goal of bringing back the game.

"The people of Hawaii want an agreement, and it is time to deliver," he said.

This month's Pro Bowl ended a 30-year run in Honolulu and generated $28.6 million in spending and $2.9 million in taxes. The 2010 game will be played in Miami.

Beyond the direct economic impact, the Pro Bowl is a priceless marketing tool and benefits the community in many ways, said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert, a nonvoting board member.

Board chairman Kelvin Bloom, a hotel industry executive, strongly supported the game returning to Hawaii. After the meeting, Bloom said he was concerned the NFL might decide not to come back with another pitch. That essentially would end the game's long-standing relationship with Hawaii.

"I think there's always a risk," Bloom said. "We've been engaged with the NFL for a number of months in negotiations. There's always a risk involved. There's no question."

Bloom said the game belongs in Hawaii and the players have unanimously indicated they wanted to return.

"We've had the Pro Bowl here for decades, and hopefully, we can continue to have the Pro Bowl for decades to come," he said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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