State officials hope the Pro Bowl stays in Hawaii

A little Hawaiian blessing Sunday did not dampen the enthusiasm of the fans gathered for the Pro Bowl. Visitors alone are expected to bring in more than $25 million.

“It does not take into account what the NFL spends, what the players spend, what their families spend, what sponsors and different people spend in Hawaii. So it’s much bigger than $25 million,” Hawaii Tourism Authority President & CEO Mike McCartney said.

A spot check on visitor-related industries discovered, for instance, The Cab revenue was up 45 percent from a normal Sunday. Sports Authority sold out of autographed footballs. Now comes the hard part — convincing the NFL to bring the Pro Bowl back to Hawaii next year.

“Our job at HTA is to negotiate the new agreement with the NFL and so we’re in active conversations with them,” McCartney said.

Several years ago the governor questioned spending $4 million of state money to lure the Pro Bowl to Hawaii, pointing out funds were needed for early childhood education.

“It wasn’t an either or, it was a question of both/and. Since that time, the investment in early childhood education is coming along, so I see them as working together,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said.

McCartney, the governor, and the visitor industry are hoping the Pro Bowl relationship will continue.

“It’s up to the NFL now to decide whether they want to take what I consider and I think everybody considers a terrific weekend, entertaining, creating a very good image for the National Football League and carry that forward into the future,” Gov. Abercrombie said.

If that happens, the governor’s Heisman pose will be validated.

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