The Garden Island has learned that the NFL Quarterback Challenge won’t be held on Kaua’i in February of next year, a decision that has multi-million-dollar implications for the island.
Problems securing a title sponsor for the event in time to hold it again on Kaua’i in two months are at the heart of the decision, although the Hawaii Tourism Authority has $350,000 earmarked in its current budget for the event.
A spokeswoman at the National Football League offices in New York City would not comment on the change of venue, apparently to Los Angeles and moved back to April to coincide with an NFL golf tournament.
The NFL Quarterback Challenge was sponsored by DirecTV for the past few years and brought to Kaua’i some of the NFL’s top quarterbacks. They competed at Vidinha Stadium for a made-for-TV skills contest.
A request for comment from DirecTV went unanswered earlier this week.
The event began at the Kauai Lagoons Golf Course in the 1980s, then moved to Florida after Hurricane ‘Iniki struck Kaua’i in 1992.
It returned to Kaua’i in early 1999, and by all reports the quarterbacks loved uncrowded, unassuming Kaua’i.
The show aired months later just before the NFL preseason started on CBS at the end of the summer to a football-hungry audience.
Of the events held in Hawai’i, only the Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on O’ahu held the week after the Super Bowl drew a bigger Mainland TV audience, said Pam Parker of the Kauai Economic Development Board.
Estimates formulated by the county Office of Economic Development showed that the annual event generated between $1.1 million and $1.4 million in direct benefits to the island, with expenditures including those for food, hotel rooms, activities, transportation, production costs, and other services.
The impact to Kaua’i of two hours of prime-time exposure on CBS when the show aired is nearly immeasurable, but a 30-second commercial running during the 2001 CBS Challenge cost $30,000, Parker said.
Additionally, small local businesses like Tyri, Inc., which provided portable toilets; Freeman Guards, which provided security services; Garden Isle Disposal, which provided trash bins; Menehune Water Company, which provided bottled water; and other vendors got early-year economic boosts by providing products and services in support of the event, Parker added.
Those nonprofit community groups that ran concessions at the stadium saw the equivalent of 15 car washes worth of revenue flow in for four hours of work, she said. The event marked their biggest single fund-raisers of the year.
Various volunteer community-service groups, like Rotary, various high school football teams and service clubs, all received donations for helping out, said Parker.
While the quarterbacks provided national name and face recognition, Kaua’i repeatedly emerged as the star of the show, with segments of the CBS show highlighting quarterbacks engaging in various activities available on the island, including golf, deep-sea fishing, kayaking, Na Pali Coast boat cruises, and more.
NFL executives expressed to Parker their sadness about not being able to have the event on Kaua’i in 2003, because they love coming to the island, she commented.
“But I’m working on ’04,” said Parker, hoping that the Kaua’i bypass is only temporary in nature.
The idea with the 2003 Quarterback Challenge is to hold it in conjunction with an existing NFL golf tournament, in Los Angeles, in April, she said.
The golf tournament would be held one day, the NFL Quarterback Challenge the next, to air on TV separately, she said.
Because of the delay in securing a title sponsor, the decision was made to move the Challenge to Los Angeles in April, she said.
The April date pushes the event back to a time when NFL team mini-camps are starting, and the distance and travel time involved in coming to Hawai’i precluded Kaua’i from again hosting the event, she continued.
With the change in month of the Quarterback Challenge, and the timing of the opening of NFL training camps, Hawai’i and Kaua’i just became too distant to be considered to host again in 2003, she said.
The KEDB was awarded contracts by the Hawaii Tourism Authority in the neighborhood of $400,000 each year for management of the NFL Quarterback Challenge events in 2000, 2001 and this year.
The contracts for the 2000 and 2001 events drew criticism from State Auditor Marion M. Higa, whose audit of HTA was published the same month of this year’s Quarterback Challenge, February.
Parker said the NFL’s decision to bypass Kaua’i for the 2003 Quarterback Challenge had nothing to do with the findings of the HTA audit.
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).