PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - The R.I. Economic Development Corporation spent $68,141 on the state's failed bid to host the 2013 America's Cup race in Newport, Eyewitness News has learned.
Nearly all of that money – $67,500 – is paying for engineering and design work to prepare Fort Adams State Park for the international sailing competition, EDC spokeswoman Melissa Chambers said.
The contract for that went to The Louis Berger Group, an engineering firm based in Morristown, N.J. The company has an office in Providence, and employees there are still moving ahead with their work because the Cup's organizers are considering allowing Newport to host some preliminary races.
The EDC spent the remainder of the money on creating maps, $425; overnight shipping of the proposal to Valencia, Spain, and Redwood City, Calif., $196.88; and supplies such as binders and tabs, $20.
A preliminary economic impact study about the Cup prepared by Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co. was privately funded by the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit business group that EDC Executive Director Keith Stokes used to lead, Chambers said.
The Newport Chamber's current chief, Jody Sullivan, declined to say how much her group spent for the study, but she said it was well worth the cost.
"We now have the information on what events of that type would bring to the economy, and we can use it moving forward as we try to bring other sailing and marine-related events here," she said.
The America's Cup Event Authority chose San Francisco for the 2013 race last week despite a frantic late-stage push by Rhode Island to return the 159-year-old regatta to Newport, the site of the contest from 1930 to 1983.
The EDC totaled up the cost to taxpayers in response to a request from Eyewitness News. The agency declined to answer further questions about the America's Cup, directing inquiries to a spokesman for Gov. Lincoln Chafee and forwarding a Jan. 1 article in The Providence Journal.
Thomas Ehman, a Cup organizer, told The Journal that Rhode Island didn't do anything wrong. "It just – there was the lack of time," he said. "We were asking too much of Rhode Island to try to reach an agreement in the time remaining."
Sullivan argued Rhode Island benefited just from making the attempt. "I think we've been playing on a world stage and you can't buy the kind of advertising we've had over the last few weeks," she said.
Sullivan also said she hoped the effort would be "a wake-up call" to Rhode Islanders that the state was missing out on the chance to host major events because it has not made the necessary investment in Fort Adams.
News of the Cup bid's cost comes as questions swirl about Stokes' future. Chafee has yet to say whether he will retain him or get someone else to run the EDC, which the new governor criticized on the campaign trail for its $75 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan to 38 Studios, Curt Schilling's video game company.
Trainor also denied a report by public radio station WRNI that Jim Bennett, a Republican businessman and former pro hockey player, is being strongly considered for the EDC job. Bennett lost the 2002 Republican gubernatorial primary to Don Carcieri.
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