San Francisco America's Cup: Great For The City, Or One Big Mess?

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When San Francisco was chosen as the host city for the 2013 America's Cup, many locals were thrilled at the prospect of holding a major sporting event within our borders. What an amazing opportunity for our little land to be showcased front and center on the international stage! And think of the tourism revenue!

But twelve months into the endeavor, many have begun to think of the magical opportunity as one big boondoggle. Myriad environmental advocacy organizations have expressed concern about the impact of the event on our natural resources, it's uncertain whether the city will be able to raise the funding in time, and only a handful of teams have even signed up to participate. To make matters worse, last week, Mayor Ed Lee announced that waterfront redevelopment plans will be dramatically scaled back, prompting a cacophony of reaction from both supporters and opponents.

Because of all the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming sailing extravaganza, we can think of no better topic of conversation to launch our HuffPost SF "Room for Debate" series with. Will the America's Cup be the tourism boon San Francisco needs? Or will it be a financial and environmental nightmare?

To spark the discussion, we've called on two local experts to weigh in. Richard Worth, chairman of the America's Cup Event Authority, supports the race all the way to the finish line. Mark Welther, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, believes the city still has a long way to go before all the hurdles are cleared.

What do you think? Join our debate below to add your voice to the conversation!

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Pre-debate poll:

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The Americas Cup will be good for San Francisco.

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Who makes the better argument?

Richard Worth Chairman and CEO, Americas Cup Event Authority

With less than 500 days to the start of the 34th America's Cup during the summer of 2013, we continue on our journey towards creating what we hope will be the most exciting America's Cup in the history of the sport. And that's a long history -- 161 years and counting.

In every sense of the word, the America's Cup is reinventing itself -- and San Franciscans will have a front-row seat.

The America's Cup is a thrilling spectacle with a rich tradition. But fans have never had the opportunity to see just how exciting this racing really is, having always been kept at arm's-length. That's all about to change. Our spectators are the focus of all of our planning, as we bring the action directly to them, whether they watch it online, on national TV, or at the water's edge.

We believe this new format offers greater excitement, with tight, tactical racing close to land. Never before has the America's Cup been seen so close to the shoreline. Even five years ago, fans had to head out to sea to see the racing.

Never before have our athletes had the opportunity to compete directly in front of their fans, close enough to hear the cheers and gasps. The landscape of the Bay will change all that, with its natural amphitheater enabling us to have a "stadium" on the water, bookended by some of the most iconic sights in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

The next generation America's Cup boats -- the AC72 wing -- sailed catamarans -- are three times faster than previous AC boats and can sail four times faster than the very wind itself, topping out at 50 mph as they race just off Crissy Field, running up and down the Cityfront, and finishing just off Pier 27/29.

The best crews in the world will need the strength of a linebacker, speed of a sprinter and agility of a boxer to push the limits of the boats and themselves to gain the edge they need -- without falling over it. The result? A fast, athletic, scintillating, high-risk sport that will be a true visual spectacle, every race day.

To further connect spectators to the athletes in motion, breakthrough graphics, athlete's view cameras and onboard microphones will place fans at the very heart of the action. They'll see and hear the quick decisions being made, the athleticism of the crew and the raw power of the boats, live from shore, through TV or on our multi-screen YouTube channel.

                     

In addition to the on-the-water racing, the 34th America's Cup will feature an exciting onshore program for spectators of all ages. Housed on Piers 27/29 on the Embarcadero, the America's Cup Village will be the hub of all activity, including concerts, official merchandise, spectator screens with commentary, and spectacular views of the finish line.


And more importantly, we're designing the events based on a set of values that we share with our host city. That begins with listening to the needs of our neighbors. Throughout our planning, we have embraced a very public process to ensure that we understand the needs of residents and local businesses, and have inputted that comment directly into our plans. We believe wholeheartedly the result will be a stronger, more robust event that is respectful of our neighbors, mitigates our impacts and delivers a wealth of benefit for the City of San Francisco.

The 34th America's Cup will be a sustainable event to demonstrate the importance of resource sustainability and environmental stewardship, and make the San Francisco America's Cup a model sporting event. Focused on being "more than a sport," we will also be heavily focused on ocean conservation. Our focus is working jointly with global and local partners, including the Aquarium of the Bay, Marine Mammal Center, Gulf of the Farallones NMS, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Save The Bay, and Sailors for the Sea to ensure that our oceans can continue to sustain our earth through collaborative ocean conservation and education outreach.

By 2013, we hope the anticipation of the San Francisco America's Cup will have reached new heights. To grow the excitement internationally, we will be bringing the America's Cup experience to port cities throughout the world over the next year through the America's Cup World Series. Sailed in the smaller AC45 wing-sailed catamaran, these events not only provide an opportunity for teams to compete against each other in advance of the pinnacle events in 2013, but also serve as a global calling card for San Francisco. San Franciscans will be the opportunity to see their own America's Cup World Series event this August, giving a small taste of the grander events to come in 2013.

The only major global sporting event of 2013, we know that the eyes of the world will be on San Francisco. It will be a summer that will not soon be forgotten, and we can't wait for the events to begin.

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The Americas Cup will be good for San Francisco.

VIEW DEBATE ROUND 1 RESULTS

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Richard Worth"Disagree"Neither argumenthas changed the most minds