Can San Francisco Actually Make Money on America's Cup?

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Is it too late to stop the boat?
On Friday, the Bay Citizen revealed that San Francisco may be bidding against itself in its quest to host the America's Cup sailing spectacle. The city's budget analyst's office has not yet been able to verify whether or not any other cities have bothered to commit the beaucoups bucks it takes to host a mammoth yachting event.

You'd think the notion of phantom competitors would affect San Francisco's generous America's Cup offer. But, then again, you can't really lowball yachting billionaires. Yet the bigger question is: Is the America's Cup the massive windfall its supporters -- including Mayor Gavin Newsom -- are promising it would be? By the end of this week, a comprehensive analysis of just that question will be released by the budget analyst. SF Weekly caught up with the study's lead author earlier today.

Is it safe to rule out scenarios in which the America's Cup spills billions of dollars into local coffers and everyone lives happily ever after? No, says Fred Brousseau, a principal at the budget and legislative analyst's office, it is not. That could happen. But, then again, it might not.

His analysis focuses on how prior America's Cup venues -- namely, Valencia, Spain, and Auckland, New Zealand -- made out. Did they make money, after all that?  "It's hard to quantify," says Brousseau.

Yes, in both Spain and New Zealand, many people came to the area and spent lots of money. But how much did that really help the cities? The budget analyst's pending report will attempt to gauge how many people will come our way, how much money they'll spend -- and how much of that will find its way into government coffers via, say, sales or hotel taxes.

Also to be considered: How much money will the local government have to spend in order to maintain order? For example, looking at recent police costs, how much did San Francisco shell out during and after the Giants' recent World Series run?

The answer to that question -- and many more -- will be in the forthcoming America's Cup cost analysis. We may yet see whether the city stands to gain from the sailing spectacle -- or if San Francisco and its mayor have been hoodwinked by yachting billionaires. 

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