2012-03-29 / Front Page

Chamber hears about America’s Cup

Chairman tells some 30 merchants that “it’s a circus and it’s coming to town”

Chamber of Commerce (from left) Executive Director John McCauley and President Jill Hubbard recently organized a breakfast meeting at the Narragansett Café with Brad Read, chairman of the state’s America’s Cup Host Committee. PHOTO BY KEN SHANE Chamber of Commerce (from left) Executive Director John McCauley and President Jill Hubbard recently organized a breakfast meeting at the Narragansett Café with Brad Read, chairman of the state’s America’s Cup Host Committee. PHOTO BY KEN SHANE The America’s Cup World Series came to town this week in the form of Brad Read. The executive director of Sail Newport is also chairman of the governor’s host committee for the sailing event that comes to the area in June.

Read addressed about 30 local business owners at a breakfast meeting of the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce at the Narragansett Café. The businesspeople were in attendance in hopes of learning more about the potential impact of the ACWS on Jamestown businesses.

The presentation was accompanied by a slide show and video presentation, which laid out the parameters of the event that will run from June 23 to July 1. While the official site of the regatta will be at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Jamestown is expected to play a key role and see increased activity while the America’s Cup is in the area.

Unlike past America’s Cup events that took place in Newport, the new 45-foot catamarans with wing sails will race close to shore. Onshore viewing of the event will not only be possible, but encouraged as the United States Coast Guard will be establishing a safety zone to keep private boats off the course during racing. Because of the short course and the high rate of speed of the new boats, racing will be difficult to follow from the water.

The races will take place in the bay, starting off Fort Wetherill, and finishing close to Fort Adams.

While the America’s Cup Event Authority is justifiably interested in having people come to Fort Adams to watch the racing, parts of Fort Wetherill will also make for excellent vantage points and will not require a ticket. It was made clear however that the state Department of Environmental Management will exercise tight con- trol over Fort Wetherill during the event. There will be limited parking and only a limited number of overall spectators will be allowed into the park to watch the races. It is possible that East Ferry will become another popular place to watch the sailing.

Admission to Fort Adams will be by ticket only. Tickets are not on sale yet, but are expected to cost $20. There will also be various bundles available that will include parking, bus or boat shuttles, and VIP access.

The experience at Fort Adams will include more than just the racing. In addition to the grandstands for spectators, there will be special VIP areas and giant TV screens that will broadcast the action. The inner courtyard of Fort Adams will be an activity zone featuring displays by the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, as well as other local nonprofit groups. Food, beer and T-shirt vendors will also be on hand.

Read assured the gathered business leaders that Jamestown is well represented in the planning. Local resident Susan Maffei Plowden is the venue manager for the America’s Cup Event Authority. Jamestown members on the host committee include Alison Eichler of Dutch Harbor Boat Yard and Town Administrator Bruce Keiser. Both were on hand for Read’s presentation.

“It was an incredibly informative and an eye-opening opportunity for the business community in Jamestown to recognize the potential impact in terms of crowds coming into Jamestown,” Keiser said following the presentation. “And more importantly, what opportunities will arise from that.”

“It’s a circus – and it’s coming to town,” said Read. He told the audience that a 1,000-foot ship will arrive in Quonset on June 5. The ship contains 90 containers, and within the containers are not only the competing crafts, but various race management boats, television equipment (more than is used for Monday Night Football), and all of the other materials needed to run the World Series.

Approximately 78 of the containers will have to be taken to Fort Adams, and after much discussion it was decided that the best way to accomplish this is by road. So over the course of four days, trucks will move the containers through Jamestown to Newport. Read expressed confidence that everything has been done to minimize any inconvenience that this may cause the town.

According to Read, the committee is taking its cue from Jamestown as to how much the town wants its role in the event to be publicized. He described it as a “double-edged sword.” While the America’s Cup will certainly bring increased business to the town, it will also bring increased traffic at a time when the town is nearly at capacity anyway.

The first weekend at Fort Adams has been designated for practice racing. Approximately 4,000 to 7,000 people per day are expected at Fort Adams during that time. Following two lay days, the racing begins in earnest on Wednesday, with close to 10,000 people per day expected for the final weekend. The last day of racing will be broadcast live nationally on NBC. The broadcast is expected to be a showcase for the area.

Based on the questions from chamber members, it seems likely that the chamber will speak with one voice in terms of business opportunities for the town during the event.

“It’s really good that the Chamber of Commerce is going to speak with one voice for all of the Jamestown businesses,” Read said. “It’s our hope that you get a bump in your traffic just like I hope that Newport shop owners get a bump in their traffic.”

Chamber Executive Director John McCauley spoke about Read’s presentation. “It’s going to help us focus on what our mission is going to be regarding these events with the America’s Cup. We’re excited about it. It’s a nice opportunity to showcase our part of the world, and Jamestown will certainly benefit.”

“I’ll be here a lot,” Read said. “Anytime that anyone from Jamestown has a question or a comment, pick up the phone. It’s so important to us to make sure that Jamestown is well represented within the governor’s committee, and making sure their companies are accurately portrayed to the visiting public.”

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