The America’s Cup, the 150-year-old international sailing race, will shine the spotlight on the San Francisco Bay Area this year and in 2013, and inevitably lead to more interest in groups taking advantage of the city’s spectacular waterfront.
“We’re going to see greater awareness of San Francisco Bay as an opportunity for events,” says John Reyes, executive vice president of the San Francisco Travel Association.
Reyes was with the San Diego CVB when that city hosted the America’s Cup and saw the impact on the travel industry before, during and after the event.
“You get a lot of great visibility worldwide,” he says. “And the infrastructure improvements for America’s Cup will give planners more choices. There’s going to be a reassessment of using the water for events and team building.”
Already, Reyes says, destination management companies are identifying more water-based venues and activities as America’s Cup excitement and momentum builds. The first stages are scheduled for August and October of this year and the finale is set for September 2013.
Restaurants with bay views, particularly on Pier 39 and the Embarcadero, are anticipating thousands of people flocking to the waterfront for front-row seats of the action.
At Epic and Waterbar, two sister restaurants in the shadows the Bay Bridge, groups can take over both restaurants for events of up to 800 people, or use a variety of different configurations in the restaurants, which include outdoor patios and terraces, private dining rooms and lounges.
“We’ve had a lot of inquiries,” says Julie Ring, Waterbar’s sales and events manager. “It’s a world-class event and we’re expecting large corporate parties. We’ll set up big-screen TVs in private dining rooms and throughout the restaurants for viewing.”
At Pier 39, many restaurants have private dining rooms and are available for buyouts, and planners have an unusual venue option: the top floor of the parking garage, with its 360-degree panorama of the city and the bay.
“There’s going to be some of the best views of America’s Cup from up there,” says Sue Muzzin, Pier 39’s vice president of public relations, advertising and new media. “Those who’ve done events there have loved it.”
Nearby, the new $226 million waterfront Exploratorium is scheduled to open in January on Pier 15. The 100,000-square-foot museum, which will move from its longtime home at the Palace of Fine Arts, will feature galleries, a theater, a glass observatory and an outdoor terrace, all available for events.
Hornblower Cruises offers a range of excursions on the bay for groups looking to hold meetings, team-building programs or s special events.
Meanwhile, Sunsail, a division of TUI Travel Group, recently opened a bayfront office in anticipation of America’s Cup and is positioning a fleet of sleek racing yachts at the Sausalito Yacht Harbor. The Sunsail First 40s, a yacht that has won major sailing races, is available for group outings.