SAN DIEGO — With pride in their hearts and dollar signs in their eyes, San Diego business and civic leaders Wednesday cheered the recapture of the America's Cup and made plans for a public celebration to welcome home Stars & Stripes skipper Dennis Conner and his crew.
Conner is scheduled to return home to a triumphant San Diego welcome sometime between noon and 6 p.m. Saturday, Mayor Maureen O'Connor said. Conner's decision to bring the Cup to San Diego, before heading on to celebrations in New York and at the White House, "says a lot about San Diegans' commitment to San Diego," the mayor added.
The Cup's new home for six months will be a vault at Home Federal Savings and Loan, said Kim Fletcher, Home Federal's chairman. Fletcher said the Sail America syndicate had ordered a display case and pedestal to be used to occasionally display the Cup in the Home Federal lobby.
Those who don't see the Cup in person will probably see it in Home Federal promotions. The savings and loan has made a deal to use the Cup in advertising for new accounts.
"We will have promotions on different accounts, different financial services and we will use the Cup," Fletcher said. He said the deal for use of the Cup was made last week when Home Federal agreed to contribute $250,000 to the syndicate for the defense of the Cup in three years. Home Federal contributed $25,000 to help Conner win this time. Fletcher said he believes other San Diego firms may also use the Cup for promotions.
Conner's overwhelming victory over the Australian entry, Kookaburra III--a stroke of personal revenge for Conner, since he lost the yachting prize to the Aussies in 1983--will also serve to focus worldwide attention on California's second-largest city, opening the floodgates for an economic boom, San Diego boosters predicted.
"It's almost like a new era," said Max Schetter, senior vice president of the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce.
Noting that this seaside city of 1 million people will also be home to the next Super Bowl, Schetter said: "We've gone from the community whose presence has often been a secret to the rest of the nation and certainly to the rest of the world, to one whose image and stature is becoming well-known. . . .
"It can result in jobs, new business, trade, all of which contribute to a healthy economy."
Schetter said members of a downtown marketing consortium--which includes the Chamber, the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Navy--met late Wednesday to discuss a celebration for the victorious crew. The group had tentatively decided on a boat parade through the harbor, from the San Diego Yacht Club to Seaport Village, followed immediately by a land parade to the B Street Pier, said Paul Downey, press secretary for the mayor.
San Diego's share of notoriety was guaranteed when Conner, a San Diego resident, beat out New Zealand in the semifinals for the right to face Australia's yachting best. The Sail America syndicate, which is responsible for raising the $15 million to pay for Conner's shot at the Cup, includes prominent hometown businessmen such as banker and real estate brokerage owner Malin Burnham. Conner sailed under the flag of the San Diego Yacht Club, where he and Burnham are members.
Thus, the Cup is now the property of the San Diego Yacht Club, which will heavily influence where the next competition for it will be set. Localities such as Hawaii, Newport, R.I., and San Francisco have been mentioned as possible sites, but San Diego civic leaders say they will fight for the rights to the lucrative competition.
"We think it's going to mean hundreds of millions--and possibly billions--of dollars in the community in a trickle-down effect," said Louis Wolfsheimer, a San Diego Unified Port District commissioner. The cooperation of the Port District, which oversees activity along the bayfront, is considered crucial in winning the designation, and Wolfsheimer said he and his colleagues will do their best to keep the races in San Diego.
Fletcher said: "What we've all heard is that the America's Cup is equivalent to 10 Super Bowls. I think that is a conservative estimate. I think the enthusiasm I've seen is much greater than anticipated."
"I think it's brought tremendous prestige to the city internationally, there's no doubt about that," O'Conner said.
San Diego's economy is heavily dependent on tourism, which is the city's third leading source of new dollars--behind manufacturing and the Navy. In 1986, Schetter said, tourists spent $2.4 billion at local hotels, restaurants and stores.
Hoping to enhance that, San Diego officials launched a successful campaign to be the hosts for the 1988 Super Bowl, and excavation has begun on a large waterfront convention center, which is scheduled for completion in 1989--in time to be showcased during the America's Cup races in 1990 or 1991.