Team New Zealand are being wooed by backers in the Middle East prepared to offer up to US$80 million to take the America's Cup regatta away from New Zealand.
The cup defenders want a multi-million dollar hosting fee from the Government to stage the event in Auckland.
But the Herald on Sunday has learned Team New Zealand top brass are looking at a raft of other possible destinations, including Sochi, in Russia, and Abu Dhabi.
And it's understood the syndicate could receive up to US$80m (NZ$116m) from a potential hosting deal in Abu Dhabi.
Government Minister David Parker yesterday confirmed the demand for a hosting fee, admitting Auckland was "not in the bag" - and he said he was aware of interest from other potential hosts.
Although Parker wouldn't be drawn on the exact amount, he confirmed Team NZ would be asking for a "significant" fee, on top of their infrastructure expenses and that this would effectively be funded by taxpayers. The hosting fee has been standard in the America's Cup since 2007 when Alinghi took the Cup to Valencia.
"It's never an endless budget for anything really," Parker told Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch.
"On one level, extra money the Government spends on this sort of thing is less money that can be spent on housing for people who need homes. Having said that, the economic case for this is quite strong because there are economic spinoffs and improved tourism."
Parker, Minister of Economic Development and Environment, with responsibility for the America's Cup, has the job of striking a deal that meets Team NZ's needs and is acceptable to the Government and Auckland Council.
He intimated negotiations were at a sensitive stage.
"It's a three-way negotiation between the council, Central Government who have been asked to pay for these things, and Team New Zealand who want to be paid. That negotiation hasn't been completed yet," Parker said.
"While there is obviously a bottom line beyond where we would think we would be unreasonably pushed — and we wouldn't be pushed beyond that — we also recognise there are benefits and that's why I think all three parties are trying to find a solution.
"I think there's a point beyond where they [Team NZ] wouldn't be pushed either. And they've got to have some things which make this viable for them and that's the nature of the negotiation."
Team NZ issued a statement saying: "Emirates Team New Zealand are not actively scouting other locations but there has been overseas interest that have presented themselves but we reconfirm our desire to host the Americas Cup in New Zealand and we are making good progress with both council and government."
In an interview to be broadcast on Veitch's Newstalk ZB show today, Auckland mayor Phil Goff has also ruled out any chance of the Auckland Council stumping up for a hosting fee.
He said Auckland would already fork out hundreds of millions of dollars for aspects of the event that will benefit the city.
"That's a pretty fair contribution to make. It's not a case of just being tight. It's that I just don't have the money to spend and the fundamental responsibility I have as mayor of Auckland is not to spend money I don't have. "
He said the Government would financially benefit more than the council would from the cup because it would clip the ticket on GST, income tax and company tax.
Goff also hoped the private sector would contribute to the cost of hosting the Cup in Auckland too, because businesses would benefit significantly from it.
Team NZ suffered a blow on Thursday when their preferred Cup base — a 220m extension at Halsey St Wharf — was officially taken off the table, at an all-day meeting with the council.
The option offered the chance for a more village-like feel for competing crews and the public alike, but would have cost about $190 million and taken up to 18 months to complete.
Instead, a dispersed base at Wynyard Pt and a clustered base at Wynyard Basin were voted as the sole options to be considered by the Government and Team NZ.
Parker said there had been significant progress during negotiaitons over the last two weeks. "If any one of the parties become unreasonable then we could lose it," Parker said.
Team NZ reclaimed the Auld Mug in June by beating defender Oracle Team USA 7-1 in the Cup match in Bermuda.