August 29, 2013
America's Cup Spectator Count Isn't Lagging, It's Luffing
According to America's Cup officials, around 500,000 people to date have been counted as spectators at the official race venues on San Francisco’s Marina Green and Piers 27-29 with another 500,000 or so expected to be tallied during the finals next month. While not specified, it's likely safe to assume those aren't unique visitors being counted but rather unique visits (i.e., the same person visiting multiple venues or on multiple days would be counted as multiple "people").
While the Business Times notes "an economic forecast from earlier this year predicted 2 million people would watch the races — a tally that race organizers said they might draw when including people watching from places other than the Cup’s two main venues," a better benchmark for the America’s Cup numbers above would be the projected number of daily spectators, not the total predicted reach.
When originally pitched, the America’s Cup Event Authority had projected the number of spectators in San Francisco would tally between 100,000 and 250,000 a day during the week and between 250,000 and 500,000 spectators a day on the weekends and final race days.
There have been 20 days of racing to date.
∙ Barclay: Half a million… and counting [americascup.com]
∙ America’s Cup spectator count lags predicted 2 million turnout [Business Times]
∙ The Scope Of Development For San Francisco’s First America’s Cup [SocketSite]
First Published: August 29, 2013 7:30 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
who ever really believed those absurd numbers -- I'm mean, it is not like this is actually an exciting or interesting sport. Nice to see the boats for 10 minutes as you stroll down the embacadero, but really, there is nothing engaging about it to hold ones interest for more than a few minutes.
It is only an interesting race if your ego is on the line. Hopefully some of those local ego's get a bit deflated by their utter failure to produce an interesting event (no matter who wins the race).
Posted by: BigV at August 29, 2013 8:37 AM
There's a race going on? Wouldn't even know had I not read the fluff.
Posted by: Bitch Please at August 29, 2013 8:45 AM
AC = Yawn
Can a jogger turning his/her head towards the water be counted as a "spectator"? In that case yeah these numbers make sense.
Posted by: lol at August 29, 2013 8:54 AM
AC has been a disaster from the onset. That said, SF is really not a sporting city in the same tradition as say Boston or Chicago so it's not surprising.
Posted by: Willow at August 29, 2013 9:06 AM
When do we get a refund of the money the City shelled out for this flop?
Posted by: sjg at August 29, 2013 9:17 AM
Question: Was the "100,000 and 250,000 a day during the week and between 250,000 and 500,000 spectators a day on the weekends" predicted for the Louis Vuitton Cup or the America's Cup?
[Editor's Note: The key four words you dropped from your quote of our sentence above: "and final race days." The final race days represent the America's Cup. In other words, a projected 100,000 to 500,000 a day for the Louis Vuitton Cup and 250,000 to 500,000 a day for the America's Cup.]
Posted by: R at August 29, 2013 9:27 AM
That folks on all sides of the spectrum bought in to those hyperbolic claims about massive hordes of spectators summer-long for AC is a mystery I will never comprehend. It seemed implausible from the get go -- the claim that the AC brings more cumulative economic benefit to a host locale than any other global sporting event other than the Olympics and the World Cup. First of all, how many global sporting events are there? Saying you're 3rd out of a very short list is not saying much, especially when you're not even in the same league as the top two. It doesn't help that you have an autocratic reclusive billionaire acting as "host" who is doing his darndest to sabotage his own event and limit the potential for real competition.
Posted by: hmmm at August 29, 2013 9:47 AM
Is that happening now? Hope they are not counting us folk who go to Chrissy Field daily.
Posted by: Kathleen at August 29, 2013 10:07 AM
Now, someone should have talked LE to fast-track an expansion of the new subway line to the Presidio on his own dime. That would have been actually beneficial to SF.
Posted by: lol at August 29, 2013 10:14 AM
I've certainly enjoyed the broad public showing of how addled and stupid and ridiculous billionaires are outside their narrow expertise. Not exactly the type of spectating LE was going for, but I've enjoyed this aspect of the event immensely. I've seen better sportsmanship at working class pickup games of soccer in Golden Gate Park.
Posted by: djt at August 29, 2013 10:32 AM
"SF is really not a sporting city in the same tradition as say Boston or Chicago so it's not surprising." -Willow
SF is definitely a "sporting" city, whether or not it's in the same "tradition" as Chicago or Boston (whatever that means). The Giants, 49ers and Warriors are very popular, and there are even plenty of Raiders, A's, Earthquakes and Sharks fans in the city...not to mention all the sports fans in the rest of the Bay Area. Can't forget less conventional sports that are popular: surfing, martial arts, boxing, skateboarding, etc. There's plenty of sports and sports fans around these parts.
That said, sports culture in general in America, whether it be in Boston, or Chicago, or SF, does not include much interest in fancy sail boat races. And that's the real reason why the low spectator counts are not surprising. I don't think many people truly believed America's Cup would be that popular, aside from maybe Larry Ellison. I know I didn't.
Posted by: cfb at August 29, 2013 10:55 AM
I have sat in the stands for a few races, and watched a few more from various spots around Chrissy Fields. Its been fun to watch, and the nightly telecast have been excellent.
Posted by: Helmut at August 29, 2013 10:59 AM
I've been and its a ton of fun.
Posted by: Seriously at August 29, 2013 11:53 AM
Is this still going on? I hope the city doesn't have to pay Larry $250M to cover his losses.
Posted by: Jimmy (No Longer Bitter) at August 29, 2013 11:56 AM
I was surprised even Cavallo Point was not sold out during the event. We were able to get dinner reservations at Murray Circle restaurant without a problem.
Posted by: anon94123 at August 29, 2013 11:58 AM
Like others here I have enjoyed the races and been glad that it is so under the radar. I have been able to get a prime spot along the seawall at Marina Green just half an hour before a race! Really, the crowds are laughing at the fact that you see so much for free!
Posted by: sashi at August 29, 2013 12:47 PM
That said, SF is really not a sporting city in the same tradition as say Boston or Chicago so it's not surprising.
It's certainly a politically sporting city, they just have to rename it as a "Kneepads for Larry" benefit.
Posted by: EH at August 29, 2013 1:08 PM
AC has done nothing for local business -- contrary to their promises. In fact, the event and its organizers have hurt local business by driving up hotel rates, driving out convention business, and refusing to enable any cross promotion with local business unless they become an official AC sponsor and pony up 6 figures. Any tourism it may have brought in are, to put it delicately, of the wrong age demographic to patronize local businesses -- they spend all their money on overpriced AC stores. Biggest boondoggle in history. And to think I was a big supporter when it first started.
Posted by: JK415 at August 29, 2013 3:31 PM
"That said, SF is really not a sporting city in the same tradition as say Boston or Chicago so it's not surprising."
Is this comment related to gentleman's sporting like sailing and polo? SF has a ton of history related to baseball, football and boxing. Sailing I am sure is much bigger in Boston I would have to agree.
I wonder if much like transit ridership forecasting and capital cost estimates with events the sponsors have the consultants lie purpose?
Best put by Willie
"that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone. We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost. Just like we never had a real cost for the Central Subway or the Bay Bridge or any other massive construction project. So get off it. In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.
— Willie Brown, San Francisco Chronicle, July 28"
Posted by: Zig at August 29, 2013 4:07 PM
If you wanted crowds, you should have given the money to Bernie and hosted an F1 race.
Posted by: Salzigtal at August 29, 2013 6:09 PM
I saw the boats once as I was walking along the Embarcadero. I assume that means they're counting me?
Posted by: SFRealist at August 29, 2013 6:14 PM
I'm not a sailor yet I've been to every race so far, first taking the 43 Masonic over and then driving once the crowds didn't materialize. For those of you who haven't watched, it's very entertaining and impressive. It's well worth a trip over to the Marina Green (with binoculars) when the finals start next weekend and best of all, it's free. I've noticed the spectators are mostly international , not domestic and everyone watching is quite friendly.
It's not the tourist attraction that was brazenly advertised, partly because there are a lot fewer teams competing and mostly because they were just blowing smoke to get a development deal. Even so, the costs are already sunk so we might as well enjoy the sailing. If the crowds had show up, everyone would be bitching about that too.
Posted by: sfgirl at August 29, 2013 6:53 PM
From the L.A. Times back in March, San Francisco all wet in regatta deal:
In 2010, the city and county administrations lined up foursquare behind the municipal bid to host the race. Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom…was a big advocate. He was abetted by the Bay Area Council, a local business advocacy group, which projected that the three months of cup-related regattas would produce $1.4 billion in economic activity.
But that figure was always a bit squishy. The council's estimate of new sales, hotel and payroll taxes was as high as $24 million; the Board of Supervisors' estimate was below $18 million.
…Over the last couple of years, the event has shrunk…as the event has gotten smaller, the city's estimated cost has fallen to $22.5 million. The organizing committee says the potential shortfall is down to about $2.7 million, but that's because it's counting $13 million in new tax revenue against the cost. Race organizers said it was always expected that those revenues would be available to cover the city's expenses. But City Controller Ben Rosenfield disagrees, and he's not enamored of the idea.
"Projections of future economic activity need to be treated with open eyes," he says. "We won't know if they're accurate until after the event has happened, and by then the money will be spent" by the city. He estimates that the city is still at risk to the tune of $8 million to $10 million.
It's an opinion piece, but go read the whole thing.
On an admittedly different and completely unrelated thread, eddy wrote:
I'm over the whole airbnb argument. It's an interesting situation to observe. Look at how uber has overcome its challenges. Perhaps cities will come to embrace it. but, who really cares.
Anyone who pays taxes in the city or supports future events like the America's Cup should care.
Because when the city decides to host an event such as the America's Cup and bases that bid partially on the promise of increases in hotel taxes, a lot of that hotel tax money will never materialize in city coffers due to a certain amount of that projected revenue getting siphoned off into the pockets of AirBnb-facilitated ad hoc hotel operators, who of course don't pay hotel taxes.
AirBnB is a parasite, and it's by design.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at August 30, 2013 6:28 AM
I've seen most of the races and many of the practices - a few things I've noticed:
- All the talk of how much the city would put in doesn't seem to be true other than added security for concerts. I'm sure there's extra Parks & Rec, but not the level that had been promised
- There aren't big crowds, but there are certainly people out there and many say they came from out of town to see the racing. Maybe more for the finals
- There hasn't been the same level of traffic jam as during last summer's events which is kind of nice
- The boats ripping by are really cool, especially once the wind kicks up after 1pm or so.
- There sure are a bunch of haters out there - it really shows the mismanagement and mis-expectations from the AC people
Posted by: elbee at August 30, 2013 9:31 PM
While I haven't paid much attention to the America's cup, the Embarcadero as a whole has been a LOT more crowded this summer than usual. Every evening (even when there are no races on), there are many more walkers, joggers, amblers, and people just enjoying the Embarcadero than I ever saw before. I think the combination of the Exploratorium and the AC has drawn attention to the space.
Posted by: Ana at September 3, 2013 8:18 PM