S.F.'s America's Cup Bid: Panel Ignores Threat, OKs 'Northern Option'

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Early word: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors' Budget and Finance Committee has approved a revised city offer to host the America's Cup. The package will go before the full Board of Supervisors tomorrow.

The deal approved today would shift the focus of the America's Cup 2013 activities from around Pier 50, south of AT&T Park, to sites at the foot of the Bay Bridge and just below Telegraph Hill. The shift was prompted by the high cost of relocating more than 80 tenants from the Pier 50 neighborhood and by questions over granting the America's Cup backers long-term development rights on the waterfront.

Reports over the weekend said that the BMW-Oracle Racing Team, the Cup defenders who have the right to choose the venue for the 2013 competition, has issued an ultimatum to the city to approve the original package by December 31 or risk losing the Cup altogether. The threat came from Stephen Barclay, the team's chief operating officer, who suggested that an alternate site was in play.

That alternate site is Newport, Rhode Island—home of the America's Cup for more than a century before an Australian team won it in 1983. Rhode Island officials were quoted today as saying they planned to discuss a Cup bid this week with the Golden Gate Yacht Club, BMW-Oracle's sponsoring organization.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said during the Budget and Finance Committee meeting today he had talked to officials in Newport and confirmed that officials there had already been in contact with the race organizers. Mikarimi was one of those who pushed for the three-member panel to back the proposal to stage the event on the central and northern waterfront.


Mirkarimi said the revised plan will cost the city far less—an estimated $24 million cost to the general fund compared to a $128 million estimate for the southern waterfront plan—and will bring the potentilal of major benefits to the city. Cost is an issue because if people know one thing about Larry Ellison, the deep pockets behind the BMW-Oracle team, it's that he's one of the richest men in the world.

"We’ve been very sensitive to that," Mirkarimi said, "to make sure that there are no giveaways to billionaires perceived or otherwise unresolved concerns."

Assuming the full Board of Supervisors passes the proposed Cup bid tomorrow, the next steps would be up to BMW-Oracle, acting in the guise of the America's Cup Event Authority.

Peter Stoneberg, an official with the St. Francis Yacht Club who has been working with San Francisco on its bid for the Cup, said the event authority can approve or reject the proposed contract the Budget and Finance Committee passed today. "Or they can come back with something different. We've been in very close conversations with them, so they know what's coming down the pike."

Will the event authority say yes to San Francisco? Stoneberg suggested that there's more horse-trading ahead.

"It all happens in negotiation, right? We're hoping they see the strong efforts that the budget committee put together today, the evidence of the seriousness of the efforts, and how hard the city is trying to bring the America's Cup here," Stoneberg said.