2015-11-05 / Front Page

Volvo returning to Newport

By Ken Shane

Ocean Fleet leaves Narragansett Bay in May following a successful stopover at Fort Adams in 
Ainhoa Sanchez | Volvo Ocean Race Ocean Fleet leaves Narragansett Bay in May following a successful stopover at Fort Adams in Ainhoa Sanchez | Volvo Ocean Race The Volvo Ocean Race is returning to Rhode Island in 2018.

Gov. Gina Raimondo made the highly anticipated announcement in a packed meeting room of her chambers at the State House on Friday. The news conference, which was promoted as the release of the official economic impact report related to the 2015 stopover in Newport, turned into something much more. As it turned out, the full report was delayed for a few days, but the highlights were noted by several of the morning’s speakers.

The question on everyone’s mind was how much the Volvo stopover had contributed to the state’s economy.

Also, they wanted to how much it had cost the state’s taxpayers to host it. The contribution to the economy was announced as $47.7 million, and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed of Newport said the state had spent $750,000. However, the amount did not include the improvements to Fort Adams, which were already part of the capital budget.

Following her introduction, Raimondo said organizers of the Volvo Ocean Race “couldn’t have been happier with the show we put on.” In attendance at the press conference were the race’s three local representatives: Team Alvimedica skipper Charlie Enright, Team Al- vimedica onboard reporter Amory Ross and Team SCA onboard reporter Corinna Halloran. All three are Rhode Island residents, and Halloran’s father lives in Jamestown.

Then came the dramatic announcement that people have been waiting for since the Volvo stopover left Narragansett Bay in May. “Today, we’re here to announce that the Volvo Ocean Race is coming back to Rhode Island in 2018,” the governor said.

According to Raimondo, the stopover attracted 130,000 visitors to Fort Adams, half of them coming from other parts of the United States and the rest of the world. It put a global spotlight on the state, she said. Moreover, the arrival of the boats just before the peak season led to one of the most robust tourism years on record. Raimondo then promised that the next stopover would be even better.

“We are going to outdo ourselves in 2018. Rhode Island is a very special place and we’re going to show people what we already know.”

Also in attendance was Tom Touber, chief operating officer of the Volvo Ocean Race, who put the official seal on the announcement. He said Newport was the seventh host city chosen so far. Once again, the City by the Sea will be the only North American stopover. Other ports in the race’s 13th edition include Alicante, Spain; Cape Town, South Africa; Auckland, New Zealand; Cardiff, Wales; Lisbon, Portugal; and Gothenburg, Sweden. The remaining stopovers will be announced in the first quarter of 2016. Although the race will start in Spain and end in Sweden, the exact timing of the Rhode Island stopover is not known because the final race route has not yet been established.

“We’re coming back to the sailing capital of North America,” Touber said. According to Volvo, hundreds of journalists attended the Newport stopover. Moreover, 50,000 people lined the shores of the bay on racing days. He said visitors and corporate guests felt the state’s passion for sailing.

Congressman David Cicilline, whose district includes Newport, said the 2015 stopover had been a team effort based on the governor’s leadership. He noted that the state’s entire congressional delegation remains committed to supporting the event. Nearly $1.1 billion had been spent by domestic and international travelers to Rhode Island, he said.

“What an exciting day for Rhode Island,” said Paiva Weed, who has been a strong advocate of the Volvo Ocean Race coming to her hometown. “It’s an example of the kind of success we can have when we collaborate.”

The 100,000-plus people who visited the race village far exceeded the projections for the Newport stopover, she said, and put the city on a par with some of the much larger cities that hosted stopovers.

Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport, spearheaded the effort to bring the Volvo Ocean Race to Rhode Island. He also helped negotiate its return. Sail Newport serves as the local hosting authority for the event.

When the boats departed Newport in May, Read said he headed to the docks with Raimondo to bid the fleet farewell. She made her feelings known to him in no uncertain terms.

“Don’t screw this up,” the governor told Read. “Let’s get this thing back.”

Read said the 2015 stopover began a new legacy built on the state’s unique maritime history. The race shone the brightest light on Rhode Island, he said, putting the state on an international stage.

“We had a better return on investment than any city in Volvo Ocean Race history,” Read said.

A survey taken among visitors to the race village revealed that 95 percent of the visitors wanted the race to return. The event hosted 4,800 corporate guests who gave an overall rating of 9.7 out of 10 for their experience. On the stopover’s biggest day, May 16, over 21,000 people came to Fort Adams. Of Americans, 16.4 percent came from Newport, 31 percent from the rest of Rhode Island, and 42.4 percent were from out of state. Foreign visitors made up 10.3 percent of the overall attendance, most notably Canada, the United Kingdom and France.

Among the international visitors, 45 percent had never been to Rhode Island before. Of the American visitors from outside of Rhode Island, 21 percent came to the Ocean State for the first time.

According to the impact report, the stopover created 353 full- or part-time jobs in Rhode Island, primarily in restaurants, hotels, retail stores and transportation. Visitors spent $22.5 million. Another $9.7 million was spent by businesses and organizations that were in town specifically for the stopover.

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