America's Cup: Newport, Larry Ellison Have Been in Contact

Hello, Larry!
During yesterday's committee hearing regarding the hosting of the America's Cup regatta, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi warned his colleagues that former race site Newport, R.I. is clamoring to sail off with San Francisco's prize following any "glitch or defect in our process."

This, it turns out, is an understatement.

The city manager of Newport, R.I. confirmed to SF Weekly that officials from his city and state would love to have the race there -- and have long been in communication with Larry Ellison, the Oracle CEO and yachting billionaire, whose successful racing team will eventually pick the site of the 34th America's Cup. Newport's incoming mayor said he and others would do "whatever it took" to host the regatta.

As well as serving as city manager for Newport, Ed Lavallee is a member of the state's America's Cup Planning Committee. He said that he has "made overtures to Oracle," as have state officials from the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. "Emissaries" were sent to San Francisco to meet with Ellison in person, he says.

"This goes back so far," says the city manager. "Since Larry Ellison has a place here, I'm not exactly sure who made first contact."

Lavallee is unsure if Newport and/or Rhode Island officials have been in contact with Ellison since San Francisco was designated the sole American city to vie for Cup-hosting honors. But he can't say for certain that his colleagues haven't been in contact, either.

And, as Mirkarimi -- a Rhode Island native -- alluded to, the entire sailing-mad state would jump at the chance to host the Cup, should San Francisco balk at the terms and costs involved.

"Absolutely. We would welcome the opportunity," says Lavallee. Since Newport is a town with a population of about 24,000, it isn't as if city general fund dollars would be enough to fund the necessary infrastructure work.

"We've looked at this as a very regional approach. It's not just the city of Newport. It's the entire state of Rhode Island. There would be lots of public-private partnerships," said incoming Newport Mayor Stephen Waulk, who will take over in January. "It would be great for Newport not only in terms of sailing but to showcase us as a world-class destination. We'd do whatever it took to make it possible."

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