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.
Reuters
— 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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid