The Pro Bowl Is Good For All Hawaii

In 1992, while I was serving as director of the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, Gov. John Waihee asked me to return a call to the National Football League regarding the Pro Bowl. So I made the call and spoke to then vice president and now commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the future of the game, which by then had called Hawaii home for more than a decade.

Aloha Stadium honcho Mackey Yanagisawa had led the charge to bring the game to Hawaii in 1980. By 1992, thanks to the enthusiastic support it received in Hawaii, the Pro Bowl had been rejuvenated after years of flagging fan interest.

But other cities had seen what we’d done and were vying to financially support the game, and the NFL was obligated to consider those bids. What Hawaii had to do was develop a competitive package to keep the Pro Bowl. Recognizing that tens of thousands of football fans had traveled to Hawaii for the game, I pitched a proposal to Gov. Waihee to transform the Pro Bowl into a tourism marketing promotion for Hawaii, and he agreed. We worked with the Hawaii Visitors Bureau and the Legislature on a $1 million package to keep the game, thereby preserving what has now become a partnership in its 32nd year.

Then as now, we need the Pro Bowl. The state’s investment of $4 million, which comes from hotel room tax revenue, not local tax coffers, generates more than $28 million in visitor spending, according to an analysis by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. That spending generates $3.07 in state taxes from football fans who come for the game.

Our visitor industry is “choke” with guests during the game period, with hotels, airlines, tourist attractions, restaurants and retail shops, and related enterprises doing booming business.

The last game reached 13.4 million television viewers, many of them shivering on the wintry Mainland. With TV showing sun, surf and beautiful weather in the weeks leading up to game day, and then throughout Pro Bowl Week and the live broadcast, Hawaii’s exposure is unparalleled.

The NFL is a major benefactor of Hawaii, donating $100,000 a year to nonprofits through NFL Charities. It also built an NFL Youth Education and Training Center in Nanakuli, the only one outside an NFL city.

Players selected for the Pro Bowl love Hawaii, and they’re not hesitant about saying so. That’s another reason it’s been held here year after year. What’s more, in the days before and after the game, NFL players participate in football clinics and make public appearances throughout the state to support worthy local causes.

Hawaii has produced scores of top-notch athletes who’ve played in the NFL, among them retired standouts Rockne Freitas, Jim Nicholson, Jesse Sapolu, June Jones, James and Herman Clark, Arnold Morgado, Blaine Gaison, Rich Miano, Charlie and Kale Ane, and Ma’a Tanuvasa, to name a few. They’ve returned to the Islands and continued to contribute to the community.

Bottom line: Sports is a generator of revenue, a source of visitors, a means of publicizing Hawaii and a source of the tax dollars that underwrite public services. Whether it’s the Pro Bowl, the Honolulu Marathon or Sony Open, sports tourism bolsters our economy.


Vilma Landagora
Position: Guest Service Representative
Location: Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort

Vilma Landagora puts the “service” in her title as guest service representative for the Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort.

She’s described as having the “epitome of grace with aloha” in her relationships with the resort’s guests, and can use these qualities to transform an angry complainer into a happy customer who vows to return because of her. Vilma’s name is frequently listed on guest comment cards as an employee who made the stay special, owing to her demeanor and emphasis on service with a smile. Her conscientious work earns her the praise of co-workers as well, as she makes sure she completes all of her assignments so other employees are not burdened.

While Vilma has a family of her own, she and her husband have opened their doors and hearts as foster parents for children in need. Despite these demands of family, the Outrigger can always count on Vilma to accommodate last-minute staffing needs.