Hawaii Pro Bowl Vacations on Hold?

Nothing’s easy. When the National Football League’s Pro Bowl contract with the state of Hawaii ended after 30 years and the league announced its plans to stage the game in Miami next year, Hawaii residents were furious. The Pro Bowl had become an annual institution here, looked forward to as a more condensed, more colorful, better-organized whale-watching event.

On the practical side, the vacationers who traveled to Hawaii specifically for the Pro Bowl were spending nearly $30 million a year in the state, and another $3 million was applied in state taxes. That money would be missed, especially in this economy.

So when the NFL offered to bring the game back to Aloha Stadium in 2111 and 2112 for a fee of $4 million per year, you’d think the state would have jumped at the apparent reprieve. It didn’t. The Hawaii Tourism Authority, the body that originally contracted with the league to hold the game here, rejected the offer.

There were a couple of issues. The NFL hadn’t committed to specific dates, and dates are important for things like booking travel elements. And several HTA members believe there are better ways to apply $8 million in a sinking economy.

As time passes, Aloha Stadium itself is becoming an issue. It was built in 1975. It was designed to be reconfigured into various shapes for different sports and other purposes, and it was the first stadium in the United States with that capability. Four sections could move using air cushions into a diamond configuration for baseball (also used for soccer), an oval for football, or a triangle for concerts. However, in January 2007, the stadium was permanently locked into its football configuration.

There have been numerous discussions with State of Hawaii lawmakers who are concerned with the physical condition of the stadium — rusting, several hundred seats that need to be replaced and restroom facilities that need to be expanded to accommodate more patrons.

The need for improvements is not lost on the NFL. Options to play the game in Honolulu also hinge on whether Aloha Stadium can be renovated and improved. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said that Aloha Stadium needs to be significantly improved before future dates are nailed down.

Comprehensive stadium renovation plans began being sent to the NFL last year. The state approved a five-year, $180 million plan to renovate Aloha Stadium that will be funded each year according to the Legislature’s appropriations for the work.

So nothing’s settled as of now (except that you can be sure there’s no Pro Bowl in Hawaii in 2010). Here at Hawaii Aloha Travel, we’ll always be up to date with the status. If you like to do the Pro Bowl thing, just pick an agent from our home page (hawaii-aloha.com), or call 1-800-843-8771. We’ll fill you in.

Posted by: Jamie Winpenny