The San Diego Unified Port District--considered the key public agency in the effort to bring the next America's Cup defense to San Diego--took its first major step in that direction Tuesday when it approved spending $25,000 to help prepare for the international yachting event.
Though the amount is minuscule compared to the Port District's total yearly expenses of about $77 million, it is an indication that the region's planning and preparation for a Cup defense is moving ahead, and it is considered only its first expenditure in what could potentially total millions of dollars.
At this point, however, it's not known exactly how much it will cost San Diego--primarily through the Port District--to put on the event. First, San Diego must be selected as the site for the races, most likely to be held in 1991.
Pays for Planning
That's the goal the Port District's $25,000 will be used to help accomplish. The money is to be spent, along with funds from the city, county and private donations, on the $123,500 cost of planning and preparation needed to make a formal presentation to the San Diego Yacht Club's site-selection committee.
As outlined by County Supervisor Brian Bilbray, who heads the America's Cup Task Force, the group putting together San Diego's proposal, the major expenses include $45,000 for a video presentation to the site-selection committee; $30,000 for a New York press trip aimed at selling San Diego to East Coast sports and yachting writers; $15,000 for a plan identifying support facilities that would be available to the sailing syndicates, and $10,000 for bringing in out-of-town sailing writers for a familiarization tour of San Diego, an event scheduled for Friday.
Dan Larsen, chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners and an active participant in the planning, said that $35,000 in private contributions have been raised so far, including $10,000 from developer Doug Manchester, $10,000 from Great American First Savings Bank and $5,000 from Coronado boatyard owner John Sawicki, who has helped organize private boatyard owners and their proposal to provide facilities to syndicates competing in the regatta.
Larsen said, however, that the America's Cup Task Force has refrained from contacting private companies and corporations because it found it was competing for funds with Sail America, the San Diego-based syndicate that sponsored victorious America's Cup skipper Dennis Conner. Sail America is in the midst of an effort to erase a debt of about $1 million.
Although the yacht club's recently chosen seven-member site-selection committee has yet to decide when it will hear from communities seeking the next Cup races--or even if it will listen to presentations--Larsen said in an interview that the Cup task force wants to complete its work by June 1. He also said, though, that such a deadline might not be realistic and could slip by a few weeks.
A more precise accounting of how much it will cost San Diego and the Port District to put on the event probably won't be known unless the city is selected as host, said Larsen, although a rough estimate should be available before then.
Bilbray said it was important that funds be spent now, both in promoting and preparing San Diego, because "we have the inside position at the starting line . . . and we need to maintain that."
As part of the task force's burgeoning public relations effort, Bilbray said it has decided on a slogan--the kind that will be painted on T-shirts, banners, buttons, pennants and other promotional material. The slogan: San Diego--Second to None.