Organizers planning seating arrangements, other events at Fort Adams
By Sean Flynn
Daily News staff
Preparations that are being made for this summer’s America’s Cup World Series events in Newport were explained to a packed house Friday at Forty 1° North restaurant and marina.
More than 100 members of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce were briefed about various opportunities for watching the 45-foot catamarans race in the waters between Fort Adams in Newport and Fort Wetherill in Jamestown between June 23 and July 1.
Tickets to the event village at Fort Adams during the five days of racing will cost about $20 each, while premium seating will be in the $50 range. Ticket holders will be allowed into the area where a crane will lower the 45-foot catamarans into the water and lift them out each day. They also will have limited seating facing the racecourse.
The races will take place from 2-5:30 p.m. Special events, an exploration center and exhibits are being planned at the event center from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Tom Hipkins, Newport project leader for the America’s Cup Event Authority, updated chamber members on the latest developments and told them how they can participate.
At the top of the ticketing plan will be corporate skyboxes facing the East Passage of Narragansett Bay, where the races will take place. The skyboxes, each holding about 35 people, are still being marketed, so prices have not been set.
Hipkins said the number of skyboxes would depend on how many are sold.
“We will build them when we get the commitments,” said Susan Maffei Plowden, the authority’s event manager.
Event tickets are expected to go on sale at the end of this month.
People who cannot be in Newport will be able to follow all the action live on YouTube and see television broadcasts. NBC agreed this week to a 90-minute broadcast of the final races in Newport on July 1, when the first America’s Cup World Series circuit champion is crowned.
The series began last year in Cascais, Portugal; Plymouth, England; and San Diego. The races will continue April 7-15 in Naples, Italy, and May 12-20 in Venice, Italy, before the series finals in Newport. The organizers have made a huge investment in broadcast technology to get the action up close. Five high-definition cameras and 14 microphones will be set up on each catamaran. More TV cameras will be set up on boats around the course perimeter and on land.
Viewers will be able to see the racecourse superimposed on the water, with technology developed by Stan Honey, the same man who developed the yellow strip that shows the firstdown line in football broadcasts. He also built a system that showed a blue highlight around the puck in National Hockey League broadcasts and a red trail when the puck was moving fast. The hockey highlights are no longer used.
Honey, who works out of the San Francisco area, is on the board of KVH Industries in Middletown.
Jumbotrons will be set up at Fort Adams so spectators will be able to see the broadcasts as well as the live action.
The opening days of the event are set aside for practice, so the races involving the 12 teams representing 10 countries will take place from June 27 through July 1. Admission at Fort Adams will be charged only on race days.
The best place to view the races will be from the Fort Adams shoreline, Hipkins said. The 1.2-mile long course will be directly in front of the fort, he said.
The current plan is to erect bleachers with 2,000 seats along the fort’s East Passage shoreline, and 500 additional premium seats at the tip of the peninsula. Organizers hope to attract 3,000 to 5,000 people to the fort on the weekdays, and about 10,000 for weekend races. That’s comparable to a good crowd at the Newport jazz and folk festivals. About 65,000 people are expected at the fort over the nine days, Plowden said.
Bleacher seats will be sold on a first-come-first-served basis, she said.
Room for additional seating is available on the slope behind the Eisenhower House, which also overlooks the East Passage. That will be a contingency seating area, Hipkins said. If the slope is used, the organizers will have to set up toilets and offer other amenities there, an added expense, he said.
Three firms will run water taxis from downtown Newport or from Jamestown to bring 1,300 people an hour to and from Fort Adams, organizers said. Satellite parking areas will be set up in Middletown and in the north end of the city and be served by shuttle buses.
On the water, an exclusion zone will be set up around the course, from about Hammersmith Farm to Rose Island, Hipkins said. Just outside the zone there will be the authority’s 35 powerboats that will marshal the area, as well as stake boats marking the course. Beyond the official boats will be the private boats of spectators. The private boats will not be able to anchor just outside the course perimeter as during earlier America’s Cup events, because the racers will be coming so close to shore, Hipkins said.
Viewers in private boats will be more removed from the action than people on shore, he said. “You won’t see the race dramatically from the water.”
The authority expects to hire a caterer to oversee all food and beverages offerings at Fort Adams during the event. The caterer will contract out services to concessionaires and others hoping to do business at the fort. “We want local flavor and will have influence over the choosing of the local concessionaires,” Hipkins said. Businesses interested in participating should contact Jodi Sullivan, executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce.
Brad Read, chairman of the 38-memberAmerica’sCupWorld Series Host Committee appointed by the governor, said a study showed that three mid-week sailing events held in Newport last year added $2.8 million to the area’s economy. The impact from the America’s Cup event will be many times that, he said.
The state Economic Development Corp. last year estimated the event could generate about $70 million for the state’s economy, but Plowden said that estimate was based on nine days of racing, not five.
Still, a lot of money will be spent during the event and in the days leading up to it, the organizers said.
“This is a game-changing event,” Read said. “If we get this annually or bi-annually, holy smokes.”
Joseph G. Dias of Newport, chief of the Division of Planning and Development in the state Department of Environmental Management, said workers are making improvements to the fort’s infrastructure and utilities, and soon will be upgrading the docks.
“There will be $1.2 million worth of work done in the next 100 days,” he said.
The improvements will allow major sailing events to be held at Fort Adams in future years, he said.
Copyright © 2012 Edward A. Sherman Publishing Co.