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Alameda catches America’s Cup fever

Submitted by on 1, January 4, 2011 – 2:42 pmNo Comment

San Francisco’s selection as host city for the 34th America’s Cup has earned that city a starring role in one of the world’s biggest – and most lucrative – sporting events. And Alameda’s marine community is hoping to make a supporting bid.

Local business owners and race enthusiasts are cautiously optimistic that Alameda may reap some of the benefits of the 2013 race, which could pump $1.4 billion into the region’s economy, according to one recent analysis.

“Everybody’s hopeful,” said Ken Lindberg, president of Power Engineering Contractors, which performs marine-related construction.

Alameda offers a deep water port, a thriving marine industry – and acres upon acres of vacant waterfront property at Alameda Point. And local race boosters are hopeful those attributes will be attractive to racing syndicates seeking a private location to stash their yachts and to others following the race.

The race’s organizers are hoping new high-tech, high-speed boats and a San Francisco Bay location that makes for better viewing than the traditionally open-sea races will draw more spectators to the Cup races than in years past. And unlike other major sporting events, which may only last a day or a few weeks, the battle for the Cup will include 43 races in the Bay over a series of months, meaning race participants and tourists will be spending money here longer.

“It’s not like everybody’s here for a weekend. You’ve got everyone here for a season, at least,” said Jack Boeger, a local race enthusiast who has actively supported San Francisco’s bid for the Cup and has advertised Alameda’s support potential with a local Cup website.

An analysis conducted by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and Beacon Economics concluded that San Francisco may not have enough hotel space for tourists who come to watch the races, and it outlined a host of other hospitality and marine-related businesses that could benefit. It said some of the racing syndicates that participate could seek out more secluded locations in the early stages of the race to test out their boats, and it specifically named Alameda as a possible spot.

Deputy City Manager Jennifer Ott said the city has communicated with their counterparts in San Francisco and at the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which sponsors 2010 race winner Larry Ellison’s team, to let them know what Alameda has to offer. Still, she said the city’s role up to now has been to support San Francisco’s bid.

“We’re trying to play a support role,” Ott said.

Local marine businesses saw a host of opportunities that could come with the Cup, both immediate and long-term. Commodore Cruises & Events’ operations manager, Morgan Proescher, said he expects a lot of business from race watchers who want an up-close look at the action.

“The America’s Cup – that’s going to be huge for us,” Proescher said.

Ira Maybaum, director of business development for Bay Ship & Yacht, said he’s hopeful the Cup will attract the mega yachts that traditionally bypass San Francisco for Newport Beach, San Diego and the Pacific Northwest – which are seen as better jumping-off points for destinations frequented by their wealthy owners. Bay Ship & Yacht offers refit and repair services for the 150-foot to 200-foot yachts, and is developing a facility on Treasure Island to handle them.

“With all of this activity on the Bay between now and 2013, we do anticipate more interest in yachts, big and small,” Maybaum said.

And both Maybaum and Proescher said the Cup will bring improvements to the Bay waterfront, something that will have long-term benefits for a host of marine interests.

Power Engineering Contractors’ Lindberg said it’s too early to know what impact the Cup could have on Alameda. He expects to have more of an idea of what the race preparation plans are in a few months.

Even so, he’s excited the Cup will be in the Bay Area.

“Just the idea of having the America’s Cup here is a cool thing,” Lindberg said.

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