City officials are still hopeful that San Francisco will prevail — much like Oracle Team USA did with its dramatic comeback in last year’s America’s Cup — in its bid to host the next regatta, despite recent reports that The City is out of the running.
On Monday, The Associated Press reported that America’s Cup officials have reduced the prospective venues for the 2017 race from four to three, and San Francisco might have been eliminated.
Russell Coutts, the CEO of two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA, told the AP on Monday night that one venue has been eliminated, and that he plans to reduce the field to two by the end of June.
Coutts would not confirm which city is out, though it’s been known that San Francisco hasn’t offered terms as attractive as those from San Diego, Bermuda and Chicago to host the 2017 regatta. The Unified Port of San Diego received a letter Monday night from the America’s Cup Event Authority confirming that city is still in the running, port spokeswoman Tanya Castaneda said.
However, as of Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Ed Lee’s office had received no official word as to San Francisco’s status among other locations, according to mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey.
In fact, Lee, the event authority and corporate leaders spoke as recently as last week to discuss the possibility of bringing the race back to The City, despite the economic impact of last year’s regatta, Falvey said.
While the 34th America’s Cup brought billionaire Larry Ellison’s team a victory in one of the biggest comebacks in sailing history, San Francisco was stuck with a $6 million tab for the event and the Port of San Francisco incurred net costs of $5.5 million, according to a February report from the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office.
“The mayor has been very clear to the event authority and Mr. Ellison that he’d like to see the race back here in San Francisco Bay,” Falvey said. “There have been ongoing discussions for several months now.”
Lee’s proposal to host the race includes “lessons learned” from the previous regatta, when the America’s Cup Organizing Committee’s fundraising and tax revenue generated by the events fell short of the original projections.
The City assumes public-safety and transportation costs for any large international event, according to Falvey, but next time other expenses would be funded by private donations.
The mayor “wants to make sure that The City would host a spectacular America’s Cup” that would “protect taxpayers and maximize economic benefit to our city,” Falvey said.
Renee Dunn Martin, a spokeswoman for the Port of San Francisco who played an integral role for numerous events related to the America’s Cup, said she too had not received official confirmation that The City is no longer a contender.
“We’ve been supportive of the mayor’s efforts to bring it here back to San Francisco,” Martin said.
Not everyone remains confident about that scenario. Former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said it should be noted that taxpayers had to bail out the organizing committee when it failed to raise enough money last time.
“I was hopeful that The City learned its financial lesson that they didn’t need to subsidize the third-richest billionaire in America,” Peskin said in reference to Ellison. “We were never opposed to the America’s Cup per se, we just wanted to make sure they paid their way and The City and its taxpayers didn’t have to subsidize Larry Ellison’s hobby.”