Rhode Island – and specifically, Fort Adams State Park – is well-positioned to host large marine events after seamlessly executing the America's Cup World Series (ACWS) last summer, according to the Large Marine Events Benefits Assessment Modeling Report by Planning Decisions, Inc. and Charles Colgan, Ph.D., University of Southern Maine.
The report had a two-fold purpose: first, to analyze the fiscal impact of the ACWS, and second, to act as a learning tool for the state to better host comparable large marine events in the future. The feedback came from a random survey of visitors on all nine practice and racing days in the public areas of Fort Adams, resulting in a test field of 1,260 valid responses.
"Hosting the America's Cup races last summer was a great source of pride for Rhode Islanders," said Governor Lincoln D. Chafee. "The Large Marine Events report shows that our beautiful state is the perfect setting for these types of events, and we look forward to using the feedback outlined in the study to make future events even better and more frequent."
Hosting these types of events has a far-reaching impact on the state. The immediate economic impact resulted in approximately:
- $38.2 million for Rhode Island businesses
- 345 jobs with an income of $12 million
- $2.5 million in general state tax revenue
The event attracted 65,000 total spectators during the four-day compressed racing period, with over 7,300 first-time visitors to Newport. Of those visitors surveyed, the majority said they were "very likely" to return. This response indicates a lasting positive increase in Rhode Island tourism. In all, visitors – first-time and repeat – came from 600 unique zip codes in 41 states and 18 countries. The report found that the size of the visiting party and length of stay increased with the distance traveled. Therefore, marketing to travelers further away will have a great fiscal impact on the area during future events.
"There was nothing quite like seeing the throngs of people lining both sides of the East Passage enjoying the spectacular America's Cup World Series races," said Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit. "Fort Adams State Park offered a world-class venue for this event, and the natural resources of Rhode Island provided the power and the beauty that put it over the top. Using our state parks to host tens of thousands of visitors to enjoy a day on our coast is exactly what DEM hopes to continue to do."
To accommodate this type of event, the state of Rhode Island, the city of Newport, the America's Cup Event Authority, the America's Cup Race Management and the America's Cup World Series Host Committee prepared for over a year to ensure the adequate infrastructure and organization was in place to support the event. Included were permanent, public infrastructure improvements at Fort Adams that not only benefited those attending the ACWS but will continue to benefit Rhode Island residents and visitors for years to come, as well as position the venue to compete for similar, world-class events in the future.
"Through our partnership with our legislative leadership and the executive office of the State of Rhode Island, Sail Newport continues to move forward with the improvements to Fort Adams and its marine facilities to support public access to Narragansett Bay and to provide the infrastructure for world class sailing events at the Sail Newport Sailing Center," said Brad Read, Rhode Island's America's Cup World Series Host Committee Chairman and Executive Director of Sail Newport. "We had our successes, and we certainly have things we could do better next time. I look forward to working with this same wonderful team on future events!"
Survey feedback indicates several areas of improvement, with the majority relating to concessions, information and marketing, transportation and parking, and coordination with local businesses. The report concludes that, given the unknowns of hosting this event for the first time, organizers should be proud of hosting a successful event.
The study was funded by the Rhode Island Bays, Rivers and Watersheds Coordination Team, a state interagency commission dedicated to enhanced water resources management and water-reliant economic development in Rhode Island and southern New England.