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Agreement reached to keep Pro Bowl in Hawaii through 2009

HONOLULU (AP) _ The Pro Bowl will remain in Hawaii through 2009 after the state and the NFL reached agreement on a new contract Wednesday.

Hawaii will pay less money than in past years to host the annual All-Star game, while the NFL has taken control of the concessions, souvenirs, parking and advertising at Aloha Stadium, Jim Steeg, the NFL's senior vice president of special events, said.

``What we tried to do with this deal is make everybody earn their money, including us,'' Steeg said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from New York.

State and NFL officials are expected to announce the deal Thursday at a news conference in Honolulu.

Officials with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which negotiated the contract, didn't immediately return telephone messages seeking comment Wednesday.

Although the NFL is getting less money roughly $20 million over the five years Steeg said the league believe it can cash in on the game's concession sales and stadium advertising, which have generated about $100,000 per game in previous years.

``I think we can significantly do better than what's been done in the past,'' he said.

The NFL plans to add more souvenir booths, diversify the food selection and expand the line of Pro Bowl novelty items.

We haven't been motivated in the past by the deal to do that,'' Steeg said.Now we're definitely motivated.''

The NFL also controls concessions and souvenir sales at the Super Bowl. This year's championship game at 70,000-seat Reliant Stadium in Houston generated about $90 per person in sales, not including the hefty ticket price, Steeg said.

The current Pro Bowl contract was scheduled to expire after the 2005 game.

Hawaii was to pay $5.6 million for the rights to the 2005 game, up from $5.3 million the year before. The new deal restructures the cost for 2005 and extends the contract through 2009 at an average of about $4 million per year.

The Pro Bowl has been played at 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium since 1980 and every game has sold out.

It's been a great marriage,'' Steeg said.We think we've had a number of fans to commit and certainly the players enjoy it. ... That's still a special place for a 23-year-old NFL player to look forward to, or even a 35-year-old player to look forward to.''

Under terms of the deal, the NFL will contribute $250,000 annually for capital improvements at aging Aloha Stadium and donate $1 million toward creating an NFL Youth Education Town, an after-school recreation-education center for underprivileged and at-risk youth. The centers have been established in Super Bowl cities since 1992.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority estimated this year's Pro Bowl brought more than 22,000 visitors to the state and generated $29.5 million in visitor spending.

This season's Pro Bowl will be played on Feb. 15.

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