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Cup Task Force to Press on With Regatta Planning

December 03, 1987|ARMANDO ACUNA | Times Staff Writer

Planning for a 1991 America's Cup regatta off San Diego will continue despite Wednesday's decision by the San Diego Yacht Club and the Sail America Foundation to race New Zealand's Michael Fay next year for the Cup, according to local officials.

Representatives of both the America's Cup Task Force and the San Diego Unified Port District said they will go forward with plans, including environmental and engineering work, with the intention that a 1991 Cup regatta will be held in San Diego. They said they are doing so at the urging of the yacht club and Sail America.

Don Nay, the Port District's head administrator, said: "We just have to assume the race is going to be here in 1991."

The Port District is a vital part of the Cup picture because it is responsible for providing the onshore facilities for the estimated 20 syndicates expected to race in traditional 12-meter yachts.

Total Cost Unknown

It's not known yet how much it will cost to provide those facilities, including new docks and a press center, but an affidavit filed in September by Mayor Maureen O'Connor as part of an effort to reject the New Zealand challenge states that it may be $40 million to $60 million.

Much of that expense, though, involves actual construction, which is not expected to occur for a year at the earliest, Nay said. More importantly, should the yacht club lose to New Zealand next year, the Port District will be out only what it spent for relatively inexpensive paper work and not for bricks and mortar.

"Most of our work in the next year will be paper work . . . it's mostly cerebral," Nay said.

The Port District has already selected the engineering firm of Hallenbeck Chamorro & Associates as its consultant for Cup facilities, though the cost of the contract is now being negotiated.

The facilities are proposed to be built in San Diego Bay's East Basin, which is now used by the Convair Division of General Dynamics. The East Basin is considered the best site both as the location for most of the syndicates and as a focal point for much of the hoopla surrounding a Cup regatta.

Nay said negotiations with Convair officials are in the early stages and shouldn't be affected by a maverick Cup race in 1988.

Several hours before the yacht club and Sail America officials made their announcement to the public, a delegation of officials from those groups--including Sail America Chief Executive Officer Tom Ehman and yacht club commodore Fred Frye--briefed members of the America's Cup Task Force in the office of Supervisor Brian Bilbray, who is also chairman of the task force.

The task force, established after skipper Dennis Conner won the Cup last February, is composed of civic officials and spearheaded the local effort to have the 1991 regatta held in San Diego. It also is responsible for raising about $10 million to help offset the operational expense of playing host for the regatta. A study done for the task force estimates the 1991 regatta will generate $1.2 billion in revenues for the San Diego.

Urged Work to Continue

Ehman said his delegation urged the task force and the Port District to "please continue, to the extent you can, to prepare."

Bilbray said the task force agreed to do so. "We're moving right ahead," said Bilbray, moments after the yacht club's press conference. " . . . We think this sure will be settled before anyone starts pouring concrete or planting trees."

A statement from Dan Larsen, chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners, urged his fellow board members to continue the planning process, and also said that a successful negotiation with Convair for the East Basin is necessary regardless of whether New Zealand wins the Cup. That's because it's time for the Port District to obtain property for public access and development, he said.

Mayor Hopes for Appeal

A spokesman for O'Connor said Wednesday's announcement calling for a race between the yacht club and Fay won't affect the city's plans to appeal last week's court ruling approving New Zealand's challenge to sail for the Cup next year. "The mayor and the city attorney's office feel we can still state a cause of action on our own and we intend to do just that," said spokesman Sal Giametta.

Once the ruling made last week by New York Supreme Court Justice Carmen Ciparick is officially filed as a court order--a process that may take a few more weeks--Giametta said the mayor hopes the yacht club and Sail America will also decide to appeal.

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