When Steve Jobs ambled up to the city council podium in Cupertino Tuesday night to deliver the news that Apple was planning a campus expansion -- a stunning, 12,000-person capacity space-age doughnut scheduled to break ground in 2015 -- the South Bay basked in the excitement. But for us, well, we had to wonder, how might this affect San Francisco?
When Jobs described the plan, he noted that the new building would include a 4,000-person auditorium in Cupertino -- that's 46 miles south of San Francisco. "Because we put on presentations, much like we did [at the Worldwide Developers Conference, held at the Moscone West.] But we have to go to San Francisco to do them."
That statement got us wondering: Is San Francisco about to lose out on all that Apple convention cash?
Apple has a long and storied history of showcasing itself in San Francisco. The first Macworld Expo was held here in 1985 and Moscone West has hosted the WWDC since 2003. Apple devotees across the world fly into San Francisco for these events, buying up huge blocks of hotel rooms, eating tons of food, downing plenty of drink, and putting cash into local vendor's pockets.
Are we about to lose all that money?
We called up Lysa Lewin, vice president for convention sales at the San Francisco Travel Association, who said Apple should still be holding its major shindigs in San Francisco for the conceivable future. "They do have hold dates here," said Lewin, while declining to say exactly when. "I think that his [comment] is more a reference to what they do here periodically in the Novellus Theater." (The Novellus is a small theater in Yerba Beuna Gardens, where Jobs took the stage to debut the iPad 2 in March of this year.)
Still, the economic impact if Apple should choose to hold its major events -- particularly the WWDC -- could be huge. According to Lewin, a small convention with 5,000 attendees at the Moscone West showhall, which sees 1,800 out-of-town guests spending three nights in San Francisco, can pump some $7,284,000 into San Francisco.
While declining to say how large Apple's conventions are, or how much direct revenue they bring in, Lewin, admitted: "Any loss to us is a huge loss. Moscone West was built to accommodate programs like Apple."
Still, she said, she could understand the tech giant wanting to keep its events closer to Cupertino. "We could never knock them trying to build their own theater in their backyard."