HONOLULU – The next Pro Bowl will be played in Arizona at the site of the Super Bowl, skipping Hawaii for the first time since 2010.
The game will return to Hawaii in 2016, the NFL announced today.
The 2015 game will be the third time the Pro Bowl is held in the same city as the Super Bowl. The NFL’s all-star game took place in Los Angeles after the first Super Bowl in 1967, then the two games weren’t in the same city again until South Florida in 2010.
Since 1980, all but one Pro Bowl has been held at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, the college football home of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.
The Pro Bowl will remain a week before the Super Bowl, as it has the last five years. The new format introduced after last season, which scrapped the AFC vs. NFC matchup, will be retained. The new format splits the all-stars through a schoolyard-style draft, a setup loosely based on fantasy sports meant to play toward player egos and the changing ways fans are interacting with the game.
The Pro Bowl after this coming season will take place Jan. 25, 2015, at University of Phoenix Stadium. A year later, the game will be held Jan. 31, 2016, at Aloha Stadium.
Tourism officials in Hawaii said they were pleased that the game was coming back in 2016 and the deal has an option for the game to be played in Hawaii in 2017.
“While we would like to have had the Pro Bowl in Hawaii in 2015, the return of the Pro Bowl in 2016 provides the state with an opportunity to showcase our islands’ unique culture and beauty,” Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a statement.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority, the main agency that markets the state to tourists, said the 2014 Pro Bowl generated nearly $72 million in direct visitor spending, including spending by people who traveled with Pro Bowl attendees.
The agency said Hawaii will pay $5 million to support hosting the Pro Bowl in 2016 and repurpose funds set aside for the 2015 game toward other initiatives, including drawing more conventions and tourists from Asia.
Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, who leads a state initiative to try to attract big sporting events to Hawaii, said the loss of the 2015 game sends a message that the state has to stay proactive and competitive while other destinations push value and Hawaii grapples with issues like how to freshen an aging stadium.
“We’ve anticipated having to compete harder for all kind of different events, not just with the NFL but with other events,” Tsutsui said. “We can’t just take those things for granted anymore.”