The biggest fish - Page 3

The America's Cup would transform San Francisco's waterfront -- but is it a good deal for the city?

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The next world-famous sailing match could be held in San Francisco in 2013
PHOTO BY JEAN-BAPTISTE DANIEL

A seven-member board, chaired by sports management executive Richard Worth, will direct the ACEA, according to Newsom's economic advisors, but the other six seats have yet to be filled. ACEA's newly minted CEO is Craig Thompson, a native Californian who previously worked with a governing body for the Olympics and has helped coordinate major sporting events internationally. In an interview with sports blog Valencia Sailing, Thompson provided some insight on why major corporations might be inspired to donate to the cause. Basically, the Cup is the holy grail of networking events.

"It's a very difficult economic situation we are going through, and it's not the best time to be looking for sponsors for a major event," Thompson acknowledged. "On the other hand, the America's Cup is one of the very few activities ... that offer access to really top-level individuals in terms of education or economic situation. The America's Cup is a unique platform for a lot of companies that want access to those individuals that are very difficult to reach under normal circumstances. I can tell you for example that Oracle is very pleased with the marketing opportunity the America's Cup has presented to them. They invite their best customers and are very successful in turning the America's Cup into a platform for generating business. The same thing can be true for a lot of different companies that need access to wealthy individuals."

But should San Francisco taxpayers really be subsidizing a networking event for the some of the business world's richest and most powerful players?

 

TRANSFORMING THE WATERFRONT

Over the past four months, Newsom's Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) has been negotiating with race organizers to hash out a Host City Agreement outlining the terms of bringing the America's Cup to San Francisco.

The proposal will go before the Board of Supervisor's Budget & Finance Committee on Dec. 8, and to the full board Dec. 14. A final decision on whether San Francisco will host the race is expected by Dec. 31. ACEA and ACOC will each sign onto the agreement with the City and County of San Francisco.

From the beginning, the event was envisioned as "the twin transformation," according to OEWD — the America's Cup would be transformed by attracting greater crowds and heightened commercial interest while San Francisco's crumbling piers would be revitalized through ACEA's $150 million investment in port infrastructure.

The plan paints downtown San Francisco as the "America's Cup Village" during the sailing events, and a study produced by Beacon Economics estimates that the financial boost would come primarily from hordes of visitors flocking to the event — more than 500,000 are expected to attend. The city expects a minimum of 45 race days, including one pre regatta in 2011 and one in 2012 (or two in 2012 if the one in 2011 doesn't happen), a challenger series in 2013, and a final match in 2013.

The transformation of the city's waterfront would be dramatic. In addition to the rent-free leases for Piers 30-32, 50, and Seawall Lot 330, ACEA would be granted exclusive use of much of the central waterfront, water, and piers around Mission Bay, and water and land near Islais Creek during the course of the event. Under the Host City Agreement, race organizers would have use of water space spanning Piers 14 to 22 ½; Piers 28, 38, 40, 48, and 54, a portion of Seawall Lot 337, and Pier 80, where a temporary heliport would be sited.

Seawall Lot 330, a 2.5-acre parcel valued by the Port at $33 million, lies at the base of Bryant Street along the Embarcadero and has a nice unimpeded view of the bay. Piers 30-32 span 12.5 acres, and Pier 50 is 20 acres.

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