Here's the deal of a lifetime: For $999, you can get a ticket to watch the America's Cup races. From beachers built on public land. Where the non-wealthy public won't be allowed.
The America's Cup Event Authority, run by Larry Ellison, who is the third-richest person in the world, has sent out an email soliciting buyers for this special early deal: Buy now, and you will be guaranteed a "reserved section in a preferred area of the bleachers ," as well as exclusive access to parties and events, and a chance to get your picture taken with the Cup.
Which, by the way, is having trouble raising money -- and could leave the city on the hook for as much as $20 million . Which loudmouth critics like Aaron Peskin and Chris Daly warned about from the start. So we've gone from the races being a huge economic boon, worth billions to the city, to poor Mark Buell, who has to ask people to give money to underwrite Larry Ellison's yacht party, saying that even if the city loses money, it will still all be worth it.
Those poor San Francisco plebians who don't have $1,000 will be able to see the races, but Ellison's team recommends spending the cash, now: "There will be a section of free-view bleachers," the Event Authority's Ryan Carroll told me. "But those seats will be limited, and we expect them to fill up quickly."
And there may still be some cheaper seats coming; tickets for individual races will go on sale later, and seats at the prelims in June might not cost as much, Carroll said.
Other areas for public waterfront viewing "will be congested," he said.
Jane Sullivan, marketing director for the America's Cup Organizing Committee (which is the city's operation, separate and distinct from Ellison's), said it's not neccessary to give Ellison a thousand bucks to see the sailboats whip by at 50 miles an hour: "The entire waterfront will not be filled up and congested," she said. "There will be ample and lovely free viewing of all the races."
So let me sum this up: The taxpayers spend $20 million underwriting Ellison's race. Then Ellison's team wants us to pay him $999 for the right to sit on a bench on public land and watch. Who does this gentleman think he is? (Oh right: He's Larry Fucking Ellison.)