News / USA

For America's Cup, San Francisco Return No Sure Thing

Oracle Team USA crosses the finish line during the 18th race of the America's Cup sailing event against Emirates Team New Zealand, Sept. 24, 2013, in San Francisco.
Oracle Team USA crosses the finish line during the 18th race of the America's Cup sailing event against Emirates Team New Zealand, Sept. 24, 2013, in San Francisco.
After a spectacular America's Cup regatta capped by home-team Oracle's thrilling comeback victory, there should be little question about the event returning to San Francisco.
Yet the Cup has many critics in this famously liberal city, and they had plenty to say as controversies dogged the event in the long run-up to the exciting final series. It's far from certain that Oracle boss Larry Ellison — who, as the Cup holder, has the right to choose the venue — will be able to reach an agreement with the city for the next Cup, which is likely to take place four years from now.
Some local officials and political activists have objected from the beginning to city support for what critics deride as a rich man's yacht race. While most of the direct costs were born by the America's Cup Event Authority or recouped as part of complicated deals on infrastructure improvements, the city agreed to spend $20 million on policing, facilities and other services. City officials planned to raise the money from private donors but have so far come up about $4 million short.
"We would love to come back to San Francisco," Ellison said at a news conference Wednesday. "San Francisco's a great place. This has been a spectacular regatta. But we're going to sit down and talk with the officials in San Francisco and see if it's going to be possible to come back."
For the city, the economic benefits in the form of increased tourism, temporary jobs and the payoff from the images of San Francisco that formed a perfect backdrop for TV coverage are hard to calculate and have not yet been tallied.
Still, the Cup was not the boon to local businesses that officials had predicted. With only three challenger teams rather than the 12 to 15 once anticipated, the summer-long preliminary matches were interesting mainly for the wrong reasons — including a fatal accident and a cheating scandal — and crowds were far smaller than expected. Until the dramatic finale, local merchants complained that they hadn't seen much additional business.
Even after the finals began on Sept. 7, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos quipped that there were "more California seals than people" taking in the action along the waterfront.
"San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who was instrumental in negotiating the Cup deal when he was mayor, rejected the idea that the event had not been worth it for the city.
Newsom said the Cup's economic benefits would come in "well north" of the $480 million in economic activity generated by the most recent Super Bowl. He said it would be substantially more the next time around.
"All that heartache, all the lessons learned, all that's banked now," Newsom told Reuters. "We're uniquely positioned to take it to a whole 'nother level. Then the economic benefits are extraordinary."
If organizers change the boat design rules to lower entry costs and attract more challengers, as they have pledged to do, all agree that the economic benefits for the host city would be greater.
'Very, very complex'
Yet plenty of political and practical challenges remain. A new cruise ship terminal built by the city was the primary onshore venue for the event, housing a media center for some 550 journalists along with shops, restaurants, a concert arena and docking areas for officials’ boats and visiting mega-yachts.
Whether the city could make other arrangements for cruise ships so Ellison could use the terminal during a subsequent regatta is expected to be subject to negotiations. Another pair of piers that housed two of the challenger teams are set to become the home of a new arena for the NBA's Golden State Warriors basketball team — a franchise that Ellison, ironically, tried and failed to buy three years ago.
Newsom said finding locations wouldn't be a problem. “This is a huge waterfront," he said. "There'll be plenty of options if they choose to stay."
Ellison alluded Wednesday to lessons he had learned from the often-contentious 2010 negotiations with the city, which ended with one major part of an initial agreement — a deal in which Ellison would have renovated crumbling piers in exchange for development rights — being scrapped. Many local political leaders feared the city was giving too much away. Ellison said he and the city had unrealistic expectations when they signed "very, very complex development deals," with neither anticipating how difficult it would be to obtain federal and state development permits along the waterfront, or how costly it would be to repair city piers.
"There are so many different government agencies having to approve the development of the piers, and getting all of that done in a very short period of time was probably an overly ambitious ask on our part and very difficult for the government of San Francisco to actually deliver," he said.
Ellison insisted that he did not take the criticism directed his way by Cup opponents personally. Yet the city has long had a love-hate relationship with its billionaires, and local crowds appeared to be cheering for New Zealand until Oracle mounted its epic comeback from an 8-1 deficit to keep the trophy.
"My hope is that Larry Ellison will give the good people of San Diego the opportunity to subsidize his race the next time," quipped Aaron Peskin, a former supervisor and an influential Democratic power broker — though he conceded that he enjoyed the races.
Ellison certainly has plenty of choices. He joked at the press conference about racing around Lanai, the Hawaiian island that he purchased almost in its entirety last year. San Diego has hosted the Cup in the past, and for decades the races were run in Newport, Rhode Island, which unsuccessfully offered Ellison a sweet deal for this year's Cup.

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video In Cambodian Capital, Political Motives Seen Behind Canceled Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs