Hawaii rejects Pro Bowl proposal

HONOLULU -- The Hawaii Tourism Authority board Thursday rejected the NFL's proposal to return the Pro Bowl to the islands in 2011 and '12.

The 10-member board, however, 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."

She added that moving the Pro Bowl a 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 was also one of three that voted not to return to talks with the NFL.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had not heard from the state and declined further comment.

It was the second time the board rejected the NFL's proposal The board felt 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 '12 games.

This month's Pro Bowl ended a successful 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 may decide not to come back with another pitch.

That would essentially 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.