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After many years of trying to gain custody of the Pro Bowl from Hawaii, it looks like Orlando, Florida may have finally won the battle.
How do we know? Because this go-round, those “in the know” are echoing what Orlando has been saying for a while now — “we’re the new home of the Pro Bowl.”
According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, Bloomberg News reported last Thursday that the game will move to Orlando for 2017. ESPN also confirmed the game is leaving. Bloomberg cited three unnamed sources for the report.
This, nearly 25 years after Orange County, Fla. officials thought they had snatched the 1994 — and subsequent — NFL all-star games from Hawaii.
But, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in an email, “No deal is done with any of the interested cities. Multiple cities have expressed interest in hosting the Pro Bowl, including Honolulu, Houston, Orlando and Sydney, Australia.”
McCarthy said, “We do not have a comment on discussions with any of these cities.”
The Hawaii Tourism Authority declined comment.
Losing the Hawaii Pro Bowl would be quite a loss for The Aloha State, especially since the game is synonymous with Hawaii. With the exception of 2010 (South Florida) and 2015 (Glendale, Ariz.), the NFL all-star game has been played at Aloha Stadium every year since it moved to Hawaii in 1980.
And, there were some close calls. The Honolulu Star Advertiser reminded readers about 1992, the year when Chuck Rohe, executive director of Florida Citrus Sports, buoyed by aid from Walt Disney World, told reporters, “I feel good about our chances. … I know our offer is better than what they (the NFL) are getting in Honolulu.”
But Hawaii kept the game for 16 consecutive years and, ironically, might lose it now to a lesser bid.
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports The HTA paid the NFL $5.2 million for the 2016 game and was due to pay the same fee for 2017. But a provision in its contract with the NFL allows either party to opt out of the 2017 game by May 31.
The original opt-out date was March 31, but the NFL requested and was granted an extension during which Florida Citrus has been firming up funds to support its bid.
Right now, the Honolulu Star Advertiser is reporting that Orlando’s initial bid is reported at $2.5 million for 2017 and escalating thereafter.
A spokeswoman told the Star-Advertiser passage was virtually assured after the county Tourism Development Council unanimously voted to recommend the appropriation.
After the TDC voted, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told the Orlando Sentinel, “I think it is pretty much ours to lose.”
At stake, all the parties in the bidding have said, is a tourism shot in the arm for the winning location. The HTA has cited $26.2 million in economic impact for the state, reported the Star Advertiser.
Florida Citrus officials touted the ability to expand upon those numbers in their presentation to the TDC last week. George Aguel, CEO of Visit Orlando, said the game provides “280 million consumer impressions on digital media.”
For visitors who come to Hawaii for reasons other than the Pro Bowl, the move may not have much of an impact. But, for locals who wait every year for the chance to see their favorite NFL players in action, the loss is significant.
And, as I think about it, the loss of the Hawaii Pro Bowl is significant for the NFL players, too. After all, many of them come to Hawaii and take the opportunity to soak-up all the Oahu activities, they can fit into a week, such as stand-up paddle boarding, surfing lessons, and fishing.
The final decision has yet to be handed down, and you can bet we’ll keep you posted. But, in the meantime, it’s a good idea to keep your fingers crossed!
UPDATE from June 1, 2016: The NFL announced today it will exercise the opt-out clause and move the NFL Pro Bowl to Orlando, Fl.