Pro Bowl Scores For All Hawaii

The Pro Bowl brings the NFL's top stars - and thousands of fans to Hawaii. Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo

The National Football League’s annual Pro Bowl returns to our island shores Sunday, one week before the Super Bowl.

Hawaii has been a fabulous host for this all-star contest ever since it first arrived in 1980. Hawaii proved its appeal as participation by the athletes and fan attendance increased dramatically following years of declining interest.

The league’s finest athletes, their families and fans have consistently enjoyed their time in the Islands and the camaraderie of the game. Tourism officials have estimated that 20,000 football fans come to the Islands for the Pro Bowl, filling our hotel rooms and generating revenue for businesses and in taxes. The television coverage, in the days preceding and during the game, has been fantastic, with panoramas of surfing, sunsets and blue skies reinforcing our image as a tropical paradise. And NFL Charities has been generous to our community, donating millions of dollars to nonprofit groups in the Islands over the years.

Hawaii has reciprocated by providing funding for the game through the Hawaii Tourism Authority. In addition, while at the City and County of Honolulu, we joined with the Waikiki Improvement Association and many businesses to launch the Pro Bowl Block Party to expand the game beyond its Sunday date, and we enabled the NFL to use Kapiolani Park and other public facilities for its popular youth football clinics.

This year, the NFL is coming to Kaua’i for youth football clinics Friday, Jan. 27, at 9 a.m., at Lihu’e area schools (TBA) and at 3 p.m. at Vidinha Stadium.

The Pro Bowl Block Party will be held in Waikiki Jan. 28, beginning at 4 p.m. This year the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association is joining as a sponsor of the party, which draws 60,000 visitors and residents to Kalakaua Avenue for an exciting night of entertainment, great food, appearances by the All-Pros and other celebrities, an auction benefiting the Special Olympics and much more.

As we prepare to welcome the All-Pros and fans and enjoy the festivities, there’s a nagging question underlying this event: Will it return to Hawaii?

There’s no question that Hawaii’s success as a site has sparked competition from other cities. Moreover, as the National Football League seeks to strengthen its brand, it’s taking a hard look at the future of the Pro Bowl in the wake of football’s enormous global popularity.

Having played a role in negotiating contract extensions to keep the game in Hawaii over several seasons, there’s no question in my mind that the NFL’s premier post-season classic is a great example of sports tourism that has mutually benefited the league and state of Hawaii.

Even with the new format that has the game preceding the Super Bowl, it’s my contention that this NFL showcase is worth pursuing, and the state should develop a strategy to keep the game here. Even if the Pro Bowl can’t return annually, we should seek to have it come back on a frequent basis, at the very least.

As we did in previous contract extension negotiations, Hawaii should be looking two to three years ahead to preserving our relationship with the NFL, and be proactive and innovative in our dealings with the league to ensure that this three-decade-long partnership does not end for lack of trying.

Bank of Hawaii

Bankoh president Peter Ho accepted HLTA’s Allied Member of the Year award

Our hero of the week is not a person but an island institution: Bank of Hawaii. The bank was selected as Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s Allied Member of the Year Jan. 13 at the Na Po’e Pa’ahana awards ceremony.

Bank of Hawaii has played a major role in the Islands’ economy for more than a century, and has been a leader in the financial industry in introducing new services to customers. In addition to those contributions, the bank is generous in its support for the community. Last year alone, it matched donations from employees and retirees to benefit 20 local nonprofit organizations with $1 million. Bank of Hawaii, through the leadership of chairman and CEO Peter Ho, had a significant role in November’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that attracted leaders from around the world and showcased Hawaii as an ideal location to conduct business. Bankoh has been a very generous and longtime member of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association. Bank officers have served on the HLTA board, while employees have participated in the Visitor Industry Charity Walk and Scholarship Golf Tournaments, attended general membership meetings, and have done so much more over their many years of membership.