Imagine climbing along the catwalks below the Golden Gate Bridge, traveling underneath the famed span through a series of walkways, 200 feet above San Francisco Bay.
Or, perhaps, putting on a hard hat and hanging out with bridge workers, getting some unique on-the-job training while learning about the history of one of the country’s most celebrated landmarks.
These possibilities may be realities within five years — and any revenue from the proposed attractions would help close a multimillion-dollar deficit.
The Golden Gate Bridge District last month unveiled the possibility of introducing an “experiential tourism” feature similar to a series of bridge-scaling attractions offered at the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia.
“Expanded possibilities for the visitor experience” could generate $9 million a year for the bridge, although it would not be implemented before 2013, according to district documents. If the district started offering the tours in 2013, it could bring in $63.3 million by 2020.
On Tuesday, the bridge district issued a request for proposal to private firms capable of running the operation. Firms have until Jan. 22 to respond to the bridge’s request.
“We plan on moving full steam ahead with this,” said Mary Currie, bridge district spokeswoman.
Any program would have to highlight the safety and historical aspects of the bridge, and subsequently could not be a distraction to drivers, Currie said. While a supervised climb up the bridge’s suspension cables will not be considered at first, the bridge district “hasn’t ruled out that possibility,” Currie said.
The interactive program would be paired with a new visitor center.
One oft-mentioned point of comparison is the “bridge climb” offered at the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Visitors to the span can scale catwalks and climb stairs, offering panoramic views of the Sydney Harbor.
In September, the bridge district released financial projections that showed a five-year, $132 million budget shortfall. The deficit came just a year after the district raised tolls on the bridge by $1.
The experiential tourism feature was included in a financial plan that was designed to help the bridge district overcome its current five-year projected budget gap. That plan was approved on Oct. 30 by the bridge district board of directors, but only in a draft form. All of the recommendations of the plan would need further public outreach and authorization from the bridge district before implementation.
Climbing the bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge board has proposed creating a tour like the one at the Sydney Harbor Bridge, which allows people to climb the span.
- Three tours are offered in Sydney, ranging from 2½ to 3½ hours
- The program, BridgeClimb, was launched in 1989
- The least-expensive option is $188* for a night climb on weeknights
- The most-expensive option is $295* for an exclusive dawn trip on select Saturdays.
* Australian dollars
Sponsorship idea receives new life
The rejected idea of allowing corporate sponsorship for the Golden Gate Bridge has re-emerged amid a looming budget shortfall.
The bridge district first introduced its plans for a “partnership program” in 2006, which would allow for discreet corporate sponsorship on district facilities such as park benches, trash cans and signs.
That program would have earned the district $3 million a year, but it was rejected by the bridge district’s board of directors in 2007 following a strong public outcry.
But last month, the bridge district announced $132 million project shortfall along with an idea of how much a partnership program could generate. The district penciled in $1 million in revenue — down from $3 million as first proposed — if the partnership plan was implemented by 2012. If the program continued to progress it could raise $8 million in extra revenue for the district by 2020.
Spanning the shortfall
The Golden Gate Bridge District is looking for ways to close a multimillion-dollar deficit.
$132 million: Five-year projected shortfall for bridge district
$417 million: 10-year projected shortfall for bridge district
$147 million: Five-year earnings district could generate if financial plan is adopted
$533 million: 10-year earnings district could generate if financial plan is adopted
$63.3 million: Potential revenue generated by experiential tourism feature, from 2012-2020
$8 million: Potential revenue generated by corporate sponsorship, from 2014-2020
Source: Golden Gate Bridge District