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Monday, December 29, 2008
Report: 2010 Pro Bowl to be played in Miami before Super Bowl

Associated Press

MIAMI -- The Pro Bowl will be played one week before the Super Bowl in 2010 and both games will be staged in Dolphin Stadium, a person directly involved in the decision told The Associated Press on Monday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the NFL has not announced the move, but Hawaii's governor and Honolulu's mayor both confirmed the situation later Monday.

"While I am disappointed the Pro Bowl likely will not be played in Hawaii in 2010, I respect the NFL's decision to play the post season all-star game in the same city as the Super Bowl, one week before the Super Bowl, on a one-year test basis," Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said in a statement.

It's not a new notion to have the game moved up to take place between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The NFL has discussed it multiple times in recent years, and commissioner Roger Goodell told the AP last month that having the game precede the Super Bowl would avoid a "somewhat anticlimactic" ending to the season.

"Plans for future Pro Bowls are not final, but we have stated publicly several times that we are giving strong consideration to moving the Pro Bowl to the week before the Super Bowl," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "We also have been exploring playing future Pro Bowls at the site of the Super Bowl as well as in Honolulu."

The Pro Bowl has been held in Honolulu since 1980, and it's probable that the game will return to Hawaii after 2010, although not on the permanent basis as has been the case over the past three decades. Lingle said she was hopeful a deal could be struck in time for the 2011 game to return to Honolulu, and the city's mayor, Mufi Hannemann, told The AP that he also is optimistic for eventual Pro Bowls.

"It's not that this comes as a surprise," Hannemann said. "The NFL has made it known for some time now that they were looking for some sort of rotational basis. We just need to get a new agreement with the NFL, whether it's every year or every two years or every three years. The ball's in our court to get that done."

It won't be South Florida's first Pro Bowl: the 1975 game took place in Miami's Orange Bowl, during a period when the site rotated annually.

Barring a schedule change, next season's Pro Bowl will take place Jan. 31, 2010, with the Super Bowl that year on Feb. 7. The league's plan is for players on the AFC and NFC championship squads not to take part in the Pro Bowl.

Miami was awarded the 2010 Super Bowl three years ago, a record 10th time the game will come to the Dolphins' home city. The notion of adding the Pro Bowl to the lineup in South Florida was first discussed several months ago. It's not clear when the final decision was made to move the game.

Hawaii tourism officials have lobbied in recent months to extend the game's current contract, which expires after this season's Pro Bowl, pointing to the fact that it's been sold out every year since moving to Honolulu and generates about $30.5 million in visitor spending and tax revenues.

Lloyd I. Unebasami, the interim CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, told The AP that his organization -- which has been involved in negotiations to extend the contract -- had not yet received anything official from the NFL about the switch.

"We're working toward assuring ourselves that we'll be one of the Pro Bowl stops of the NFL," said Unebasami, adding that his organization is also working on luring international soccer matches to Hawaii in 2010 -- just in case the Pro Bowl isn't there and creates a void in the state's sport-tourism landscape.

Earlier this year, Hawaii's state government released $11 million for lighting and roofing improvements at Aloha Stadium, part of ongoing upgrades designed to refurbish and modernize the aging stadium. State officials have also considered demolishing the facility and building a new stadium.

Losing the Pro Bowl, combined with slowdowns in tourism because of the sluggish economy, is a double-dose of bad news for Honolulu, which estimates that 25,000 people came from out-of-state for Pro Bowls.

"It's not a shock because in talking with the NFL last year and this year, you realize the potential was there that it wouldn't stay in Honolulu forever and ever," said the mayor, Hannemann.