The America's Cup Organizing Committee went to the San Diego Unified Port District Tuesday to ask for money, and, after three hours of often-tense commentary and interrogation, walked away with 90% of what it wanted--in round numbers, $8,281,000.
The ACOC had originally asked for $10.6 million and had whittled that request to $9.1 million. Although approving all budgetary line items "in concept," the Board of Port Commissioners refused to allocate money for the three that triggered the most argument:
* An America's Cup-Port District float in the Tournament of Roses Parade: $142,000.
* America's Cup opening ceremonies: $431,000.
* America's Cup festivals: $237,500.
Last month, the port agreed to spend $2.3 million toward a $4.4-million renovation of the B Street Pier, which will be used as the America's Cup headquarters and as Port District office space after the race is over. That expenditure was considered separately from Tuesday's request.
After Tuesday's hearing, the port has agreed to provide $6,859,000 in cash, with the rest coming in the form of "in-kind" services to the committee.
"We're under way, we're moving," Malin Burnham, head of the ACOC, said afterward. "We've taken a giant step forward. We're very appreciative of the port's efforts."
But both Burnham and Tom Ehman, general manager of the ACOC, said they were disappointed about falling short.
"Sure, I wish they'd gone in total for what we asked for," Burnham said. "That's why I honestly and sincerely asked them to go in total. You always want to get what you asked for."
Ehman said his excitement was tempered both by falling short of the full amount and by the reality that the America's Cup-class World Championship regatta, scheduled for next year in San Diego, "is only 199 days away."
It appeared at times during Tuesday's session that the Cup committee might walk away empty-handed. A motion by Commissioner Dan Larsen, the committee's biggest backer on the board, to approve the $9.1 million was defeated in a 3-3 tie.
(Commissioner Delton Reopelle, who recently underwent surgery, was absent from Tuesday's meeting, and, whenever a tie results, parliamentary policy dictates that the measure is defeated.)
Port commissioners then considered each of several expenditures line by line, and all were approved "in concept"--with Commissioners Lynn Schenk and Clifford Graves casting most of the no votes. The board then voted to allocate funds for all but three.
The $142,000 requested for an America's Cup-Port District Rose Parade float called for $21,000 to be spent on costumes and $18,000 on flowers and miscellaneous items.
Schenk, who voted against four proposals--the fourth being an America's Cup Museum--questioned the need for public expenditures in the face of the potential from corporate and individual donors.
"It should come from the business community," she said of the committee's requests for money. "There's no question that that's where the bulk of their support should be. Malin Burnham and others say funds from the private sector need to be reserved for the defense of the Cup itself, to build the best racing teams.
"But surely, in all of the state and all of the country, there's corporations that would love to spend money on this event. I think they ought to be asked."
Several commissioners questioned the public-private partnership that Burnham and other committee figures said they envisioned in approaching the port.
After Port District counsel Joe Patello questioned the legality of such a partnership and whether many of the expenditures fell within the purview of the port's "trust," Burnham approached the lectern to implore the board to "invest a few dollars" on outside legal counsel.
To that remark, Patello responded angrily, "We don't need outside legal counsel!"
In defense of budgetary items--and the $9.1 million he argued passionately for--Burnham said he was not so much asking the port to trust \o7 him \f7 as he was his and his staff's judgment on how to put together a "world-class" event.
Several pro-Cup spokesmen called the America's Cup the third-most important sporting event in the world, behind the World Cup soccer competition and the Olympics.
"We're asking you for a net $4-million investment over the course of three fiscal years to put on something most of the world would kill to have," Burnham said.
Burnham's committee presented several speakers, including a representative of Board of Supervisors Chairman Leon Williams, who wrote a telling letter emphasizing the event's cultural and educational possibilities.
Former San Diego City Councilman Bill Cleator argued on behalf of the $9.1 million, saying the event would enhance the cruise-ship industry, in which he has extensive dealings. Cleator said several international cruise lines, which have never been to San Diego, plan to dock here during the finals in May, 1992.