SAN DIEGO — How much is the America's Cup worth?
Between $1 billion and $2 billion, according to economic impact statements prepared by the U.S. syndicates that are designing super-sailboats to win back the sailing world's most prestigious trophy.
Those estimates--which the syndicates use to solicit corporate contributions--cover the anticipated economic benefits that a host city would enjoy during the three-to-four-year period leading up to the world's premier best-of-seven sailing series. The estimates include spending by skippers and their crews and the flood of tourist dollars that would likely follow.
Staging the 1991 America's Cup series in San Diego would "obviously . . . have great economic impact on businesses in Southern California," observed Charles Ward, marketing director for San Diego-based Sail America Foundation, which hopes to sail to victory in its Dennis Connor-skippered Stars and Stripes 12-meter boat. "Anyone in any kind of business that gets a return from the tourist dollar will benefit."
Not counted in those billion-dollar estimates are the "intangibles, the impacts on the image of the community," suggested Max Schetter, a senior vice president of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. "To be identified as the home port of the America's Cup could be significant," given the upscale, foreign visitors who were drawn to the races in Newport, R.I.
"In terms of international appeal, San Diego is much better established as a visitor destination (than) Newport or Perth, but (hosting the Cup) would certainly have a major value in establishing us in the international market," said Al Reese, spokesman for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (ConVis), the flagship consortium for the area's third-largest industry.
During the six months before the 1984 America's Cup series, tourists pumped $50 million into Rhode Island's economy, according to David DePetrillo, director of the state's tourism and promotion division.
"That's a conservative figure because a lot of the activity started much earlier than that," said DePetrillo, who added that spending was bolstered by the round-robin trials--and the corresponding social events--that began a year before the actual cup race.
San Diego, with its existing tourist attractions, would likely generate even more tourist dollars than Rhode Island, Reese said. According to ConVis figures, tourists spent $2.1 billion here last year, up 10% over a year earlier.
The San Diego and San Francisco syndicates readily admit that their economic estimates borrow heavily from a study by the Center for Economic Research at Chapman College that was completed for the Newport Harbor Beach Yacht Club's Eagle Challenge syndicate. That study indicated that Orange County would garner more than $1 billion and 4,380 jobs during the years before and after a cup series based in the Newport Beach-Long Beach area.
"There are many different factors in these economic impact reports, which is why there are wild variations in the figures," said Mike Risley, a spokesman for the St. Francis Golden Gate Challenge syndicate in San Francisco.
"Our (figure) is based on the fact that we have a natural arena (San Francisco Bay) that is like no other place in the world," Risley said. "You can sit on the docks or the eight islands in the bay and the boats will sail right by you. We've got 300,000 free seats on the bay."