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Winterguide 2012

Jeff Monroe, former transportation director, City of Portland:

You know, this conversation comes up in every port.

Portland probably didn’t do anything to work with OpSail to bring the event here. It’s a very comprehensive project. You need to have someone to put it together.

In Boston, SailBoston spent 4 years preparing for OpSail ’96, New York has OpSail itself.  When I came here in 1998, Richard Rybicki, who died last year, had a great nonprofit with hundreds of volunteers that had been working for years ahead of time. I can’t even remember how many hundreds of thousands of dollars it cost. It was a wonderful event but it must have been over a million manhours over three years to make it happen. It would be up to the city, the CVB, Maine Tourism, or another nonprofit to make it happen.

The decision for OpSail 2000 was completely with the Transportation department. Bob Ganley told me to check it out and I had already done Boston. But there’s no transportation department now, so the decision would be with the city manager. Maybe Bob Leeman.

Host communities spend a small fortune for OpSail, and many can’t afford it. The justification is always that it attracts more money than it costs, but the cities put out a lot in promotion, police overtime, etc. out of city funds, and there’s a lot of businesses benefiting from it, but the funds don’t always refill the coffers of the those paying for it.

Berthing is an issue, even with Ocean Gateway. Some pier owners were open and others couldn’t make room. And some ships didn’t have any money–the Russian ship was looking for donations to feed the crew! And here’s a shocker–there was an issue with sailors chasing after women in the city, imagine that.

My recommendation is the same as my report after OpSail2000: Not to have big event like this, but a series of smaller, more manageable events throughout the year. OpSail might attract 500,000 people and shuts down the city for days. It makes more sense to get ships for a smaller events throughout the summer. It’s been very successful over the years with the Jeremiah Brown, Columbus’s ships, the Amistad. In the end you get the same amount of visitors, but the cost and impact is spread out–it’s much easier.

Leave these events to bigger cities better suited for these events with better highways, more money like Boston, and then these ships split up and go their separate ways. Ask them to come up here after for a 5-or-6-ship mini-OpSail. It’s still exciting and attracts people to the waterfront.

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