The America's Cup is expected to create 8,000 jobs and inject more than $1.4 billion into the region's economy when the world's fastest yachts take to San Francisco Bay in 2013.
But the anticipated 5 million spectators — with 500,000 on "peak" days — will test the Bay Area's transportation network, sanitation systems and the environment during 50 days of racing.
The City also faces myriad challenges in preparing for the race, according to a new 1,400-page draft plan, including remaking much of the city's historic northern waterfront between the Bay Bridge and Fisherman's Wharf. Displaced will be a popular cabaret-style dinner theater, a wine warehouse and dozens of other businesses. Another challenge is providing spectator space along the water in this high density city.
City officials plan to open up environmentally sensitive parks such as Crissy Field, Fort Mason the city's Marina Green and Aquatic Park to spectators and provide miles of fencing and volunteer staff to protect the habitat from being trampled.
There are plans, too, to erect large-screen televisions screens in front of City Hall, the city's Union Square and Justin Herman Plaza.
"This is a huge project with many aspects and many stakeholders," said Deb Self, executive director of the nonprofit environmental group San Francisco Baykeeper.
Self's group is part of a coalition of 30 environmental and community organizations giving the city assistance preparing the state-mandated environmental study, which is clearly on a fast track.
Typically, the groups say little until the city releases environmental impact reports on major projects — and then often end up filing lawsuits over environmental concerns.
But Self said the America's Cup is different. "This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the bay and an opportunity to create buzz," she said.
Officials hope to have final approval by the end of year so work can begin on plans that call for using several piers as racing team bases while setting up an America's Cup center. After the Cup is over, the center is to be converted into a cruise ship terminal, providing a lasting boon to the port economy.
Close to 80 current tenants received eviction notices, including the dinner-theater Teatro ZinZanni. Port officials said they are working with those businesses to find new digs on city property elsewhere. The draft report suggests relocating the theater to one of two locations in the city, including a site near the home of the San Francisco Giants.
Theater representatives didn't return email and phone messages.
The draft report says that regional transportation service should be beefed up to handle the crowds of spectators along the City's bay shoreline. It called for several satellite parking lots so spectators can be shuttled to prime viewing areas along Crissy Field, near the Golden Gate Bridge.
To prepare for the first America's Cup contested so close to land, the draft plan says miles of fences should be erected to protect environmentally sensitive areas, and hundreds of portable toilets will be strategically placed throughout the area.
Other worries include disposal of sewage in the Bay. Environmentalist said too many boaters now plying the bay improperly dispose of their waste, dropping water quality. Even more recreational boaters are expected during racing days. The report urges authorities to publicize that boaters can't simply dump their waste overboard and that it needs to be disposed of properly at dock.
Usually the contest is held miles out at sea, affording patrons few — if any — vantage points. This cup will be different. While plans to send the boats under the Golden Gate Bridge on occasion have been discussed, the main course would circle Alcatraz Island in front of the city's skyline and northern waterfront.
The public will have a little more than a month to comment on the state-mandated environmental document and the San Francisco Planning Commission has scheduled an Aug. 11 hearing on the matter. Once the Board of Supervisors approves the document, it will become the official blueprint of the America's Cup Race.
After the spectacle leaves town, two piers will be left to Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison for development. Ellison won the right to choose the location of the next America's Cup after winning sailing's most coveted trophy in Spain last year. As part of the deal to bring the Super Bowl of sailing to Northern California, Ellison extracted the right to lease and develop the two piers.
Several members of the Board of Supervisors initially objected to this part of the agreement. But the board voted 10-1 in the end to adopt a renegotiated plan and criticism of Ellison's development rights has so far been muted.