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N.Y. Cup Decision May Scuttle Economic Boom

November 26, 1987|CHRIS KRAUL | San Diego County Business Editor

The economic bonanza that the America's Cup race is projected to generate for San Diego's economy will be dramatically reduced if the race is held next summer as mandated by a New York Supreme Court judge, instead of in 1991 as the defending San Diego Yacht Club had planned, local officials said Wednesday.

If the 1988 challenge by a New Zealand syndicate headed by Michael Fay stands up to an almost certain court appeal by the SDYC, the race would attract a smaller number of competing racing syndicates and fewer tourists, and would generate less harborside construction, the officials said.

Taken together, those factors would result in far fewer dollars spent in San Diego because of the race, Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce President Lee Grissom said Wednesday.

"It's hard to say by how much, but there would be a dramatic loss of revenue," Grissom said. "I feel disappointment and anger."

A study released last month by the San Diego America's Cup Task Force, a public-private group set up to promote the race, said that a regatta held in 1991 would pump $1.2 billion into the local economy.

The study was based on the assumption that as many as 20 racing syndicates would compete and that racing activity and tourism would remain fairly heavy between the world yachting

championships slated here in 1990 and the America's Cup trials and finals in 1991.

But the Fay challenge could result in only two contestants--New Zealand's boat and the San Diego Yacht Club's defending boat--competing in races taking place as early as June, Grissom said.

The San Diego Unified Port District and other public officials had promised to spend as much as $60 million on shore facilities as well as $10 million to stage the 1991 race. Changing the competition to next summer with fewer contestants is bound to affect those spending plans, but officials said Wednesday it was too soon to say by how much.

"We just don't know about the practical implications" of the court decision, Port District spokesman Dan Wilkins said. "We had just hired the consultants to advise the district" on what it would cost to provide facilities for a 1991 race, he said.

Nevertheless, Wilkins said the court decision "won't change our willingness to help" in staging the regatta.

Upheld Challenge

In her ruling Wednesday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Carmen Ciparick upheld the validity of Fay's challenge that calls for a summer 1988 race involving boats with a 90-foot waterline.

The judge also refused the San Diego Yacht Club's request to amend the Deed of Gift, the 1887 trust document that establishes the competition and the rules, to specify that contests could be held under the same terms as over the last 30 years. Those terms have involved 12-meter boats racing in regattas held every three or four years.

Twelve-meter boats have waterlines of about 45 feet, or half the size of the boats called for by Fay's challenge.

"We will stand true to our obligations and will determine the best course for this city, the Cup and its competitors," said Malin Burnham, chief executive of Sail America Foundation, the group responsible for staging the regatta and financing the San Diego Yacht Club's defense of the Cup.

Assumption of Study

The economic impact study, done by CIC Research of San Diego, assumed that some of the racing syndicates would spend as long as two years in San Diego, CIC Vice President Michael Casinelli said.

The 20 syndicates envisioned for the 1991 race were to have been the greatest source of direct spending in San Diego because each team would include 50 or more team members and support staff, each of whom would have to be housed and fed in San Diego. One Japanese syndicate was to have consisted of 400 members, Grissom said.

The CIC study predicted that more than 9,000 jobs would be created by the 1991 event, a number that would be severely reduced if the race is held in 1988, said San Diego County Supervisor Brian Bilbray, who is also president of the San Diego American's Cup Task Force.

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