Wednesday, May 8, 2013


It’s been anything but plain sailing for the America’s Cup Event Authority, organizers of the 34th America’s Cup and San Francisco, the host city, but, if nothing else, San Franciscans will love AC34 for what it leaves behind. A full year of battle was fought to craft a deal that was agreeable to both sides yet behind closed doors, the niggling still carries on. But, it is the America’s Cup so nothing new and sadly, to be expected. As the Event has downsized to just three challengers, so have expectations, to the point where perhaps it’s a blessing that there are fewer competitors considering the radical change both organizationally and on the water that has occurred. Go small and do it right, I say.

And for those locals who thought nothing good could ever come from the America’s Cup, a surprising amount of work has been accomplished in a very short time that will benefit the City for years to come. Kyri McClellan, CEO of the America’s Cup Organizing Committee, and Jane Sullivan, spokesperson for the America’s Cup at the City, fill us in on the legacy benefits that San Francisco will enjoy for years to come.

How has the City made the most of the Cup coming to town?

KM: From our perspective the city has done an amazing job on capitalizing on the America’s Cup and using it as a catalyst to accelerate some projects- anytime you want to get something done in San Francisco it takes a lot of time and there’s a lot of process. So, SF’s pipeline of projects along the waterfront was well stocked. They have used the America’s Cup as the hammer to drive a lot of things that have been planned for the waterfront for a long time. Chief among those are the passenger cruise ship terminal on Piers 27 and 29, something San Francisco has worked on for decades. If not for the America’s Cup it wouldn’t be here. That’s the preiminent example of San Francisco making the most of this.

There’re also programs on the parklands to the south of the ferry building at Brannan Street wharf and also improvements to the Jefferson Street area to the north, at Pier 45 and the Marina Green.

Describe some of the other programs that have been completed around the City.

JS: Brannan St was a decrepit pier that was planned to be open space - Pier 36 as part of a Parks Bond. The schedule was accelerated and it’ll be great as its public open space looking at Piers 30-32 - some 2 ½ acres. Next door at Pier 38 the shed is being upgraded and 30-32 is also being upgraded taking a decrepit parking lot over the pier and making it a beautiful open space.

To the north is the new Pier 43 promenade - a parking lot right along side the waterfront that was transformed into a promenade connecting Fishermans’s Wharf to the actual fishing wharf at Pier 45 - a lot of work has been done to the sea wall there which was very decrepit - it’s a huge improvement. The Jefferson Street public realm - the last couple of blocks of Jefferson Street at the Wharf which were kind of nasty has been made much more pedestrian friendly and “beautified”. People are basically coming to see a new waterfront - it’s extraordinary the differences. Additional improvements to the Marina Green and the harbors over there have been a long time coming and there’s been a hustle to make sure that gets done before the event including things like a new kayak launch and down at Pier 54 also for ‘human-powered’ boats.

There are a bunch of new slips at West Harbor, and for people wanting to sail their boats over and tie up along the cityfront there’re new public docks. The other not so visible improvements include a couple of big sustainability initiatives. There’s new shore-side power down at Pier 70 so that when the shore-side power at the new Cruise Ship terminal comes back on, the capacity has been doubled for big ships coming into the Port of San Francisco so they can plug into shore-side power instead of running generators which is a huge reduction in air quality emissions. On the Marina Green which is an old park with systems running underneath the park, a bioswale is going in - an improved drainage system using natural materials.

The key story is how quickly this has all taken place given how long some of these thing have taken. The Cruise Ship terminal has taken 25 years - this is the fourth time they’ve tried to do it.

How did the improvements to Pier 30-32, where ETNZ & Luna Rossa are based, eventually transpire?

KM: The Port invested between $8-$10 million dollars in Piers 30-32, so that they could be used for the America’s Cup. When the real estate deal fell apart, the City stepped into the void because under the deal ACEA were going to invest $60-$70 million dollars so that the piers could be used for the Cup and then parlayed into something else. When it fell apart the City said they’d improve the piers so that they could still be used for the Cup (they could not have been used without improvements). They invested the money but it stayed a public asset and now it’s served as a catalyst as the possibility of being the new home for the Warriors. All the environmental review that was done and the physical improvements that were made for the Cup has made it viable for the Warriors deal.

What has the City had to do in order to accommodate an Event of this magnitude?

JS: This is such an unusual event - 50 days of sailing over 3 months with peaks and valleys in between - it’s a great test. The City’s created a special events team at MTA (Municipal Transportation Agency) which has changed the way MTA works with the rest of the City in supporting these events - they’re much more flexible, much more responsive to neighbor concerns. Some of the policy issues that people have wanted to introduce in the past have been put on this project for example, the prevailing wage issue is one - extending the regulations that the city has about public works projects into for the first time a temporary private event.

Another positive outcome has been the OneSF: Celebrate the Cup program - part toward the fund-raising efforts and part as a civic engagement program. ACEA is out there marketing their event, which is great, but we want to market the City to the City - get local people interested. OneSF is more about San Francisco, not about the Event - it’s about getting people excited about that it’s happening here in the City. That’s also a legacy that could continue as we go after other large events for the city - help the City become a little more sophisticated in marketing itself. The City is going to be far better at handling these events after the America’s Cup. It hasn't been easy (LOL) but we’ve learned but only through these one-off big things do you effect this kind of structural change.

The public transportation piece of this is also really key. There’s never been a great link between the visitor base and marketing and public transportation. We did a great job last October for the World Series - half the people on the Marina Green took public transportation not private vehicles - that’s huge. That’s also a big legacy for the city and the more people that use the system the more money there is for it and the better it gets.

The City’s many small interest groups are often blamed for the lack of progress here - what’s your thoughts?KM: People here are really so passionate about their neighborhoods their community and the impacts - good and bad - you’ve had the business community and small business - very quickly support so many elements of the event because they directly benefit. I wouldn’t expect that the small interest groups to ever stop here - its engrained in who people in San Francisco are - we hold ourselves and our guests to the highest standard possible and all we ever try to do is raise the bar further. I’d never expect us to stop being aspirational - we don’t know how. We actually think its brought out the best in the city and the event as well.

The biggest challenges all around?

KM: Managing expectations - that applies to every single category of the players - managing the public’s expectations, what the size and scale is - and that’s because it’s continued to change, managing donors understanding of what resources are really going to be required because they also continued to change - it was this goal, then that goal. Managing the expectations of the Event Authority - what’s it going to take to get this done - on everyone’s part.

JS: Timing - you talk about things taking a long time to get done in the city - you have regional agencies involved, federal agencies involved - just powering through all that - for ACEA to want to shift something 6-ft another way for the view may impact four different agencies permits. It seems absurd but that’s the world we live in.

KM: All of those agencies have stakeholders but if not for those stakeholders and bureaucracies, our Bay would not be as pristine or available to hold the Cup. If it were not for Save the Bay and the work of those four lovely ladies decades ago, there would be no bay - it would be all filled in and there’d be no public viewing to watch the races. We owe a debt of gratitude and we have to pay that on a daily basis by living with the stakeholders who continue to be vigilant because the Bay almost wasn’t here.

JS: Viewing from the shore is a game changer for the Event this time. Even the Event Authority people - many of them have been involved with previous America’s Cups have never done anything like this before - they were not setting up two main viewing areas where you can almost reach out and touch the boats. The learning curve has been steep all around.

Has it been disappointing for the City to have the Event downsize to the degree it has?

KM: With fewer teams participating making fewer demands on some of the public facilities, that means fewer costs. I think we agree that fewer teams means a little less interest and fewer spectators that would come for the bulk of the time. I think for our first time out of the gate on something like this, it’s allowed us to focus on the core objective for the city which was really how can we capitalize on the planning and preparation not just be successful with the Cup but look at the legacy benefits both from a community and infrastructure standpoint, but then also concentrate the resources on the events with the highest activity so really looking at September (Red Bull Youth America’s Cup and Defender Series), and the Louis Vuitton Cup finals. That’s going to keep our fundraising goal achievable and we’re also dealing with more specifics now that we’ve held two of these events already (World Series events here last fall). The police department had certain expectations for the crowd and crowd profile in the and while the crowds grew toward the end of the weekend, the police were able to back off their staff because they had a better understanding who the audience was - different profile, familes etc.

If the Cup stays, what do you see for the future?

KM: We have six months after the Cup to negotiate. There have been a lot of lessons learned in preparation and I think there would be a pretty comprehensive assessment - we’ve engaged the Bay Area Economic Institute who did the 2010 study - they did an update to their report which they presented recently which recast some of the economic impacts - how many teams, the footprint of the event re fewer people here for less time. That analysis will drive and inform the city’s offering.

What is the expense to the City at this point?

KM: The City has pegged it's AC34 expenses as an estimated $22.5 million. Do date they have incurred and invoiced us for $8.3 million in planning, preparation and 2012 ACWS hosting expenses. We have paid $6.8 million and will pay the outstanding balance before June 30th of this year. I anticipate we may receive an additional invoice of approximately $1.2 million for the City's remaining 2012-13 expenses, which I hope to be positioned to pay, which will bring our total payment to the City close to $10 million. So we will have covered almost half of the City's expenses to date from 2011/12/13- such as environmental review, planning and permitting for both the ACWS events but also the 34th America's Cup. Effectively July 1, 2013 the city begins a new fiscal year and it is envisioned that the City's event-hosting related expenses will be covered by the tax revenues generated from visitors, the events, the teams, and the associated activity stemming from the AC events this summer.

NOTE: The new SF Cruise Ship Terminal at Pier 27-29 will be the site of AC corporate hospitality areas, the AC international media center and a sports bar. The only other permanent structure of the site, the Pier 29 shed, will also be used for corporate hospitality, concessions and activities. Also on site will be a Club 72 for sponsor hospitality and the amphitheater.

Pic 1: Oracle Team USA, photo credit: Oracle Team USA
Pic 2: Kyri McClellan
Pic 3: Jane Sullivan
Pic 4/5: SF's new cruise ship terminal at Piers 27-29

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