Will the America’s Cup return to San Francisco?

Published on September 27th, 2013

(September 27, 2013) – The successful defense of the 34th America’s Cup leads to an inevitable question:  Does San Francisco  want, deserve, need – or can afford – another months-long boat derby in the bay.

Larry Ellison, the sponsor of the winning Team Oracle USA yacht, answered the question as he hoisted the silver pitcher symbolizing the come-from-behind win over Emirates Team New Zealand in the final race. Of course he wants to defend the cup again here.

To Mayor Ed Lee, it’s also a no-brainer. “The mayor thinks we should and could host another one,” said spokeswoman Christine Falvey.

There are plenty of reasons behind this giddy urge for a rerun. Ellison has refashioned a boat race traditionally held miles at sea far from the view of landlubbers. His high-tech specifications have created a new world of ultra-fast (and ultra-dangerous) boats, which sparkled against San Francisco’s skyline. Splashy graphics and TV angles helped nonsailors make sense of the arcane world of $100 million boats. “It was picture postcard stuff for us,” said a city official.

The crowds proved smaller than expected, though the total topped a million sprinkled along miles of waterfront and hillside, authorities claim. City officials believe their planning efforts will make it easier to stage a rematch.

The burden on Muni and police was less than expected. The troublemaker factor – always a worry at big sporting events – wasn’t a problem.

Those are the plus signs after a relatively trouble-free event. But the final numbers aren’t in. It’s too early to know what Ellison and his team – known to be very tough bargainers – will want in exchange for a second Cup defense. By tradition, the trophy’s owner has up to four years to host a challenge.

Within several weeks, the city is due to announce its final bill for the months-long event. Lee hopes last-minute fundraising will end the need to dip into the city’s general fund to cover special-event costs. Also, the city’s economist will add up revenue from hotel and sales taxes to measure the financial bump the race was touted to give San Francisco.

These figures – along with the scale and demands of the next America’s Cup – should put the city in mind about playing host again.

Yes, it would be terrific to have the 35th America’s Cup in San Francisco. But this time, city officials will be in a savvier negotiating position. The event may have been wonderful for the city – albeit less so than originally advertised – but it also was an enormous boon to Ellison and to the stature of America’s Cup. The next partnership should reflect that reality.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

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