Long Green, Marina Green

Fascinating it is to try to sort out the moving parts in the latest wrinkle between America’s Cup, the teams, and the city of San Francisco. My Inbox at dawn was hardly as tranquil as this scene caught by Daniela Gonda and relayed by AC vet Mike Erlin . . .

Photo © Daniela Gonda

Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker used the word “bombshell” in his Tuesday blog, referring to what he described as a new deal (redefined by the AC Event Authority) altering “what we have been told would be a fully functioning base area complete with Team hospitality spaces and full access for the public to watch the teams preparing and launching their boats. It is now going to be a concrete slab with absolutely nothing on it which will now require us to secure cranes, jettys, and all services required to function. We have never budgeted for this and [for it] to be dropped on us now is quite unbelievable.”

And Mr. Barker’s blog landed like its own bombshell on my Tuesday dawn. So I asked around and—

Not true, says the America’s Cup Event Authority. ACEA will build that base if ETNZ wants it. Stephen Barclay, CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority, tells us that, to this point, infrastructure costs have been paid by Race Management “and passed along pro rata.” If so, there’s nothing really new in that part of the budget.

Barclay claims that the intent remains to provide infrastructure on Piers 30-32, per the longstanding plan, with two differences. Teams are no longer required to be based there, and America’s Cup will not pay for hospitality infrastructure on the piers, which hits ETNZ, Barclay says, because ETNZ wants to keep hospitality inside the base. To that extent, if they make that choice, he says, “Then New Zealand will have extra costs, and Dean is right. I had said that we wanted a big hospitality space down there and I’d pay for it. But if you look at the numbers, who went where in August, it seems that people want to go to the Marina Green, and they don’t want to go to some piers south of the Bay Bridge. So why should we be spending our fan actualization money [more than $1 million] anywhere but at the Green? The choice to move some elements from Piers 30/32 was driven directly by the success of August regatta and by asking the question: how do we deliver the best possible fan experience?”

THE Race-Village-to-be will be remain at Piers 27-29, per plan, where the city’s new Cruise Ship Terminal will emerge from the hubbub following America’s Cup 2013. In Barclay’s version of events, the difference now is in taking part of the infrastructure cost—the hospitality portion—from Piers 30-32 and moving it to the Marina Green.

As a member of a yacht club whose members are excited about an upcoming tour of one of the team bases, what I don’t hear in the comments above is a full acknowledgement of the long-term potential of the bases.

And as a San Francisco taxpayer, what I don’t hear is a clear accounting of what I can expect of Piers 30-32 when the tents are folded. Since 2010 we’ve gone from a major real estate deal in which those crumbling edifices—we give them maybe six semi-useful years if they’re left untouched—would be completely rehabbed through private investment (it was a complicated deal; not going to fly) to a plan for the Port to invest enough of its own funds to extend the life of the piers.

We went from touchdown to field goal.

Will this new turn result in spending less to get less? I don’t sense much clarity around City Hall, and this sure took people by


Including people who should not be taken by


Barker continues: “I have to say we are a long long way from the vision presented to us back in September 2010. Larry Ellison has done a lot for this AC and has put a lot of his own financial resource into making the Americas Cup next year a big event. However I think in terms of a lot of decisions made along the way by different people here we are with only 3 challengers and now no base facility to operate out of. This is a long way from the success of 2007 in Valencia no matter how you package it.”

Yes, but.

Three points.

1) There is no love lost between the Kiwis who are running Emirates Team New Zealand and the Kiwis who are running the America’s Cup Event Authority. If you don’t already know that, you need a history lesson that I’m not providing here. We can always count on ETNZ to stir “it” up.

2) If the AC72 concept overachieves, that’s good barroom conversation, and probably a good point, but it really isn’t at the core of anything. The 2007 cup was sailed near the top of an economic boom. Valencia, Spain ponied up something on the order of 70 million euros just to be named as the venue. Would that be happening now?

3) You know a rhetorical question when you hear one, don’t you?

Dean Barker’s blog: HERE.

Suns New Jerseys