- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

SAN DIEGO (AP) - San Francisco is out of the race to host the next America’s Cup, meaning no more spectacular backdrops of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

Russell Coutts, CEO of two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA, made San Francisco’s exit official while confirming for the first time that Chicago is a candidate, along with San Diego and Bermuda, to host the challenger semifinals and finals, and America’s Cup match in 2017.

“San Francisco did a great job last time,” Coutts told The Associated Press by phone from his native New Zealand on Wednesday. “Frankly, whoever is chosen next time to host it will have a hard act to follow to repeat the excitement that was there in the finals. I’m very confident that the three cities remaining are all excellent candidates.

“It’s obvious that the offers in the other cities are more compelling than what San Francisco was offering,” Coutts said.

Software billionaire Larry Ellison, who owns Oracle Team USA, has left it up to Coutts to pick the venue and set the rules for the next cup. The rules were released last week, more than eight months after Oracle Team USA staged one of the greatest comebacks in sports to beat Emirates Team New Zealand and retain the oldest trophy in international sports.

Ellison was not available for comment, an Oracle spokeswoman said.

Although the 2013 America’s Cup was troubled in many ways, the final round on San Francisco Bay turned into a thriller as space-age American and Kiwi catamarans dueled on a course bordered by the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and the Embarcadero.

But America’s Cup officials have been unhappy that San Francisco didn’t offer the same terms as last year, including free rent for piers as well as police, fire and other services. They also opposed paying the equivalent of union wages for construction work.

San Francisco said it lost some $11.5 million in staging last summer’s racing.

While the America’s Cup generated less economic impact than projected, Coutts said it was still substantial.

“Some of the people in San Francisco didn’t think it was rational to spend the money they did in order to get a $350 million economic return whereas others did,” Coutts said.

In a statement, Mayor Ed Lee said “San Francisco put forward a strong proposal to host the 35th America’s Cup, one that maximized economic benefit, minimized taxpayer risk and applied valuable lessons learned from hosting the 34th America’s Cup along our City’s world famous waterfront.”

Coutts said in a letter to Lee that “should we be in the fortunate position to decide on a venue for AC36, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss returning to San Francisco.”

He also suggested the possibility of San Francisco hosting America’s Cup World Series regattas in 2015 or 2016 as a buildup to the next America’s Cup.

Coutts plans to reduce the venue candidates to two by the end of June.

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