Cities vying to host next America’s Cup |

Cities vying to host next America’s Cup

Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO – The courtship of billionaire Larry Ellison began almost as soon as his space-age trimaran sailed to victory in the 33rd America’s Cup.

He now has at least two mayors of major California cities, Rhode Island’s governor and countless sailing enthusiasts pleading their cases for why their locales should host the 34th America’s Cup. The reigning America’s Cup champ gets to choose the site for the next event, which in 2007 was dwarfed only by soccer’s World Cup tournament and the Olympics for adding billions of dollars to the host city’s economy. This year’s event generated far less revenue than the $7 billion in 2007 for a variety of reasons, including a loss of several sponsors.

The wooing by the three U.S. cities on Ellison’s short list – San Francisco, San Diego and Newport, R.I. – gets under way in earnest on Saturday. That’s when Ellison meets privately with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom before the two attend a public celebration in City Hall complete with the America’s Cup itself, the oldest international sports trophy.

“This is a spectacular opportunity,” said San Francisco’s economic development chief Michael Cohen. “The city is enthusiastic about making this happen.”

An emissary from Rhode Island plans to attend the San Francisco event so he can hand-deliver to Ellison a letter from Gov. Don Carcieri extolling the virtues of Newport, including the city’s past experience hosting a dozen America’s Cup competitions through the 1980s. Ellison also recently purchased a $10.5 million oceanfront mansion in the city.

“This is a big deal for a place like Rhode Island,” said the emissary, Halsey Herreshoff, the president of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in Bristol, R.I. He noted the state’s unemployment is nearly 13 percent.

On Sunday, Ellison and the cup visit San Diego, which is planning its own public celebration complete with a flotilla of boats sailing the Oracle founder and trophy to the San Diego Yacht Club, which has hosted three previous America’s Cup contests.

“The successful hosting of the America’s Cup in San Diego helped establish our city as an ideal venue for events of national and international stature,” San Diego Mayor Jerry Sander wrote in a Feb. 17 letter to Ellison. “With our vast experience hosting world-class events, ideal weather and strong local support for this prestigious event, San Diego would make the perfect host city.”

Ellison’s racing team trained for 16 months in San Diego before departing for Valencia, Spain, which hosted the most recent race, and several key crew members live in the city.

Typically, the winner’s yacht club ends up hosting the America’s Cup contest, though Ellison could break with tradition. Ellison belongs to the Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco, which is the only U.S. city under consideration to have never hosted an America’s Cup contest.

Ellison said Sunday night that no decisions have been made about a venue. Sailing a full regatta in San Francisco Bay could be difficult because of the tremendous amount of cargo-ship traffic, but Ellison said it’s also possible that some preliminary rounds could be sailed overseas or in other U.S. ports.

San Francisco city officials point to their ability to accommodate hundreds of pleasure craft and several U.S. Navy ships on the bay during the annual “Fleet Week” celebration every October. Regardless of Ellison’s decision, it’s expected that his yacht club will play a major role in planning and managing the next America’s Cup competition.

Hosting an America’s Cup competition can be worth as much as $6 billion to San Francisco and up to $4 billion each for San Diego and Newport, according to Tom Cannon, a sports economist at the University of Liverpool. The figures assume that the Golden Gate Yacht Club will receive a share of revenue through a management role.

Because of legal complications, the 2010 event was limited to two competitors rather than the usual dozen or more, reducing the amount of money flowing to Valencia from roughly $7 billion when it held the competition in 2007 to $700 million this year.

Associated Press Sports Writer Bernie Wilson in San Diego and writer Eric Tucker in Providence, R.I., contributed to this report.