After a tumultuous courtship that threatened to suck all the wind out of the sails of the America’s Cup Yacht Race’s entrée into San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee officially signed the development agreements Friday for the prestigious yacht race.
The ceremonial signing took place in a vast red-carpeted tent on Pier 27, packed with Oracle race team members and city leaders. The smiles and generous back patting belied tense behind-the-scenes negotiations which lead to the highly touted development plans being scaled back.
But outside the tent, work was already under way to transform Pier 27's aging pier warehouses into a sleek cruise ship terminal and racing village that will serve as the hub of public activities for the event. The hoopla was a very public signal negotiations were in the past and actual shovel turning was the future.
"To actually see the building come down and the construction begin is incredibly gratifying," said Jennifer Matz, Director of San Francisco’s office of Economic and Workforce Development.
The racing village set for Pier 27 will have open space for the public to gather during the races. There will be an amphitheater for people to watch the sailing action on big screen TVs, an area to listen to concerts, and waterfront viewing of boats crossing the finish line.
"It’s going to be the hubs of where the teams will be, where the people will be and people will be able to come and be included in the event," said Russell Coutts, CEO of Oracle Racing.
After plans to redevelop Piers 30 and 32 into the team bases fell apart, the Port of San Francisco committed to footing the bill to fix the foundation for the crumbling piers. With racing set to begin in July of 2013, the work is expected to begin soon.
"We’re very disappointed to lose the long-term benefits of those development opportunities," said Matz. "But the improvements being made to 30, 32 in order to host the team bases are all permanent improvements."
In fact, city leaders say many of the changes being made for the race will last well beyond the final race.
"While there are three months of intense activation once the America’s Cup is going, we’re going to have a new cruise ship terminal, we’re going to have extended public access here," Matz said.
Inside the tent, two white gloved guards escorted the gleaming America’s Cup trophy through the crowd and up to the stage, signaling that change was afoot, and wearing a Prada shoe.