Published July 13, 2011
Think of several Super Bowls rolled into one.
That's the hope for the 34th America's Cup sailing competition, blowing into San Francisco Bay in 2013, and leaving with it a potential economic windfall in its wake.
One major reason is location. Sailing's premier event is moving from the open seas to the heart of the city.
A draft environmental impact report, released Monday, gives a glimpse into the potential transformation of San Francisco's waterfront. It includes revitalizing dilapidated public piers and converting public parks into viewing points to help hold the estimated 500,000 people expected to flock to the city's shores.
"There's no more natural global amphitheater than the San Francisco Bay," says Matt Stiker with the San Francisco Travel Association.
The city estimates the America's Cup will infuse the area with $1.4 billion -- money spent at local shops, hotels, and world famous restaurants. Waterbar, with a prime location along the Embarcadero waterfront, is already preparing for big crowds.
"I think we'll probably see somewhere between a 10 or 20 percent increase in business over that two-week period," says Pete Sittnick, Waterbar’s managing partner.
He and scores of other merchants are planning to expand their workforce, creating an estimated 8,000 new jobs by race time.
But it's not all smooth sailing. Nearly 80 waterfront businesses are being evicted by the San Francisco Port Authority to make way for an America's Cup Village, a new cruise ship terminal and public viewing areas.
Among those pulling up stakes is Teatro ZinZanni, one of the city's top tourist attractions. With more than 100 employees, it is also one of the port's biggest tenants. Without a new big top, this long running, circus-themed dinner show could close for good.
Just down the Embarcadero, the manager of a popular soccer facility also hopes that, with government support, he can reopen somewhere else.
"I think if San Francisco Soccer and all the other businesses are looked after by the city and the Port, everything will work well," says John Flood, the managing director of San Francisco Soccer.
With two years to go and more than a billion dollars at stake, the city is in another race to raise the necessary funding, spruce up the aging waterfront and put San Francisco's best face forward, not only for the huge crowds expected here, but for TV audiences -- and potential Bay Area visitors -- watching around the world.