Mayor Phil Goff was smart to jump in before all the welcome home Emirates Team New Zealand hysteria breaks out tomorrow and warn that Auckland Council was in no position to pour large amounts of cash into creating a venue for the 2021 rematch.
To head off criticism from the Government and rest of the country, he could have pointed out that Auckland ratepayers have already spent more than a quarter of a billion dollars preparing for just this eventuality.
Back in 2013, when we were all counting our chickens before they failed to hatch, and planning for a rematch in Auckland after that victory in San Francisco that didn't happen, I calculated that by then, Aucklanders had already stumped up $272 million to make the Viaduct Basin a worthy home for America's Cup challenges.
In the build up to the 2000 defence, local ratepayers had stumped up $120 million to transform the derelict brown fields Viaduct Basin into the home of the America's Cup. In the aftermath came the $32 million events centre, and with the creation of the Super City, another $120 million went into infrastructure upgrades in the area, including the Te Wero lift bridge, cobbling and landscaping Jellicoe St, creating the North Wharf promenade and the Silo Park and the like.
That's as of 2013. Since then I'm sure several more millions have been spent on infrastructure improvements. All of which has resulted in a wonderful new playground for Aucklanders and visitors alike. It also means that at a time like this Aucklanders can stare down the Government and the tourist industry and the yachting fraternity and say, we've done our bit, what about you?
All that's missing now is a site for the team bases. These days, requirements seem to have shrunk with the size of the boats. Competitors travel light, relatively speaking. Team New Zealand, for example, operates out of converted shipping containers, building its machine shop, for instance, inside a container shell. The boat lives under a canvas "tent" with walls, two containers high.
Before the 2013 San Francisco defeat, Waterfront Auckland scoped the area for a site for a race village and homed in on the existing Wynyard Wharf, running down the west side of the Wynyard Point reclamation. Chairman Bob Harvey called it the "perfect site ... an absolute doozy". A concrete structure, with a large gap between the shoreline and the wharf proper, Harvey said this could be covered with planking.
The only other feasible alternative is on land among the tanks on Wynyard Point. Hijacking Queens Wharf or one of the port company's wharves for the duration, or extending Halsey Wharf out into the harbour just isn't going to happen for all sorts of obvious reasons.
The complication with the Tank Farm is that leases on the favoured northern half, occupied by petroleum-based facilities, don't start expiring until 2022. The leases closer to the city have already begun to expire. Goff is exploring the possibility of buying out the existing leases at a cost of possibly $20 million, saying it would be fantastic to get hold of the land earlier to create the planned headland park. Alternatively, gentle pressure could be put on the occupants to show what good citizens they are by sharing their space with the yachties.
Perhaps they could be tempted by the offer of village naming rights. Or the Prime Minister could take his oil industry mates to one side and twist their arms while delivering the good corporate citizen speech.
Of course the safety police - to say nothing of the sailors - might have something to say about racing teams squatting among tanks of highly volatile liquids. In which case, maybe camping among the vegetable oil, would be more suitable.
Alternatively, there's Bob Harvey's "perfect" site astride Wynyard Wharf.
Whichever site is chosen, there's going to be set-up costs - whether it be a temporary coat of tarseal over the on-shore site, or planking on Wynyard Wharf. Aucklanders shouldn't be ashamed to suggest it's time the rest of the country, through the Government, or the commercial enterprises who will profit from the regatta, dig into their pockets as well.