The NFL announced Tuesday that the Pro Bowl will be moving to Orlando, Fla., in 2017.
It will be the first year of a multi-year deal to play the game in central Florida.
Moving the game to Orlando will allow the NFL to team up with Disney and ESPN for Pro Bowl Week.
“We are excited to re-imagine the Pro Bowl experience for both fans and players and to celebrate the game of football at all levels,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Collaborating with Disney and ESPN brings us closer to the best in youth and family-focused entertainment.”
“Our decision to move the Pro Bowl to a different location was not related to funding, Aloha Stadium or Hawaii’s ability to host the game,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice president of events. “We value our partnership and look forward to continuing our community grants to nonprofits in Hawaii for the next three years and working with the State and the (Hawaii Tourism Authority) on future opportunities.”
Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association, calls it a major loss. He expressed his disappointment on KHON2’s Wake Up 2day:
“What it really sends out there is signal that we are slipping in terms of being a major sports marketing area,” he said. “The Pro Bowl has been here for 35 of 37 years. The NFL gave us a lot of warning signals that the game was in danger of leaving. So we should have been negotiating from a position of strength when the game was definitely attached to us.”
As a sign of appreciation, the NFL is providing $100,000 in grants for use by Hawaii nonprofits in each of the next three years, a contribution the NFL has made for many years when the game was played in Honolulu.
The Pro Bowl returned to Hawaii this past season after attaching itself to the Super Bowl site in Arizona back in 2015. Aloha Stadium had been the host of the all-star game nearly every season since 1979, 35 out of the 37 times it’s been played.
By mutual agreement, the NFL and the Hawaii Tourism Authority extended the deadline for either side to opt out of the contract from March 31 to May 31.
The state paid the NFL $5 million to host the Pro Bowl that, according to the HTA, in turn brought in tens of millions of dollars into Hawaii’s economy.
The money budgeted for 2017 will be used to support sports competitions, preserve Hawaiian culture and the environment, sponsor community festivals and events, and bolster tourism marketing in Hawaii’s largest markets (Mainland U.S. and Japan) and emerging markets, officials said.