HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — The Hawaii Bowl is set to return this December after COVID paused college football bowl play for the past two years.
ESPN Events — the organizers of the bowl game — tried Wednesday to reassure fans and the people of Hawaii that the annual Christmas Eve clash won’t happen anytime soon.
“We’re taking this opportunity to be back this week and to talk about how valuable this business is to us,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby told reporters.
Since 2002, the Hawaii Bowl has become an annual holiday tradition for local sports fans, with the Rainbow Warriors attending nine of the last 18 games.
Her most recent appearance was a come-from-behind win over BYU in 2019.
The final two bowls were scratched due to the pandemic, with the 2021 game canceled after UH pulled out 24 hours before kick-off. But ESPN Events doesn’t want the past two years to prejudge the game’s future.
“We knew early on in[the pandemic]that there was going to be some sort of disruption,” Overbi said.
“I think the surprise was last year, but we didn’t want anything that happened in the last two years to ever be indicative of what our future investments or future opportunities with the event would be.”
In 2019, the Hawaii Bowl brought in $13.5 million in revenue for the islands, in addition to the nationwide viewership the game has when it airs on ESPN.
“They’re going to have an impact because they’re staying at our hotels, eating at our restaurants, whatever,” Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association President Mufi Hannemann told Hawaii News Now.
“So the economic impact won’t be as great as we’ve seen with sporting events that have been held at Aloha Stadium, but it will be a welcome expense.”
Though the game will be played at Ching Field — a significantly smaller venue than Aloha Stadium — tourism officials say it’s a sign big sporting events are still looking to come to the islands.
“Well, I hope our government officials will build a bigger stadium much faster now, so we can let you know big opportunities like this are coming,” Hannemann said.
“I think that adds to that incentive, or at least it should, that we have a 9,000-seat stadium and ESPN still wants to have a bowl game here.”
The game pits a team from the Mountain West Conference against someone from the American Athletic Conference or Conference USA this Christmas Eve in Manoa.
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