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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Just when the Pro Bowl was getting good again it's leaving and taking millions of dollars with it.
For what will be the second time in five years the NFL is passing on Hawaii and instead tossing the game to Arizona, the same venue as the Super Bowl.
"To the sports fan it's devastating. To the overall state it's not a good situation," said State Representative Mark Takai, (D) Aiea. "From the state's perspective I believe it's a big blow."
More than 47,000 fans went to the last Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium and another 11 million watched it on TV. The Hawaii Tourism Authority says that was a score for the state bringing in $200 million in exposure and media value, $72 million in direct spending and another $16 million from other Pro Bowl events throughout the week. Meanwhile the state spends about $5 million to play host.
"I think it's a battle we're going to have to fight every year," said Linda Chu Takayama, Executive Director of Economic Development for the City & County of Honolulu.
So is Hawaii doing enough to hang on to the game and not fumble it away?
"We're definitely talking with the NFL. We have different ideas on how we are going to be able to grow the participation being able to bring the Asian countries into the mix in anticipation of the Pro Bowl," said David Uchiyama, Hawaii Tourism Authority Vice President of Brand Management.
"We're working and looking toward 2016 when they promised to be back. Maybe at that point in time they'll regret they ever left," said Takayama.
Some think the key is working with the players and their union, because they want to keep the game in Hawaii.
"They're going to go (to Arizona). They're going to pretend they are in Hawaii and not enjoy themselves I'm pretty sure," said Rep. Takai. "They'll be back and I hope they'll be back for another 30 years."
The biggest advocate for Hawaii could be Mother Nature. The historic average high in Glendale, Arizona in January is the mid 60's. It's also the coldest month of the year there.
"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," said Governor Neil Abercrombie in a written statement.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority says the year break gives them enough time to try and attract more international visitors into the game.