Former mayor: We need to do a better job attracting big sports events to Hawaii

Paradise lost: Why major sports events don’t come to Hawaii
Published: Mar. 22, 2018 at 6:36 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 23, 2018 at 1:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - From the UFC to the NFL's Pro Bowl, Hawaii has had some trouble bringing major sporting events to the islands — or keeping them here.

The talks to bring a UFC event to Hawaii were for summertime, according to multiple sources.

But the Hawaii Tourism Authority reportedly reached an impasse with the UFC in recent weeks, disappointing MMA fans across the state.

According to sources the reason UFC Hawaii has stalled out for now has to do with cost — essentially what UFC is asking for from HTA.

Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said the situation underscores a bigger problem — the lack of a single public agency that would be charged with attracting large sporting events to the islands.

"I think we're missing out on major opportunities that should be coming to the state," said Hannemann, who is CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.

He added, "There's a lack of confidence on the part of people that want to bring events here that they can deal with an entity that understands the supporting world and the like."

Hannemann said the lack of a sport-focused authority are clear. In 2016, Hawaii lost the Pro Bowl. UFC talks are stalling out. And the World Surf League is threatening to pull the Triple Crown from Oahu's North Shore for three years.

The impact of these events leaving Hawaii doesn't just affect sports fans or Hawaii athletes. Hannemann says it also impacts tourism and has left a black eye on the state as a destination sports location for future events.

"It hurts us tremendously," he said.

"Sports tourism is a huge market for us and we've had some proven winners in the past or that are currently here. Like the Sony Open and the Honolulu Marathon and the Pro Bowl at one time.

He added, "We need to restore confidence in Hawaii being a great place to host these venues here. We want Hawaii to be a great place to have major sports events."

Calls into the Hawaii Tourism Authority for comment were not returned.

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