"Shanghai has demonstrated that when you host the World Expo, the world comes to you, and I want the world to come to California," Gov. Schwarzenegger said in a news release. He added that Moffett Field is surrounded by "some of the largest and most respected companies in the world."
According to a fantastical conceptual sketch from the Bay Area Council, the runway and airfield at Moffett would be replaced with a waterway and promenade, among other structures. Moffett's large hangars would be turned into exhibition halls. At the north end would be a ferry terminal on the bay and a "Google pavilion" near Google's undeveloped Moffett property.
On Monday, an official for Moffett's main land owner, NASA Ames Research Center, said he was surprised by the idea, but supported it.
"If they can put this together and win the bid, NASA would be willing and able to be part of the team," said Lewis Braxton III, deputy director of Ames, according to news reports. "It was a bit of a surprise, but we're all elated because NASA Ames is all about being at the forefront of technology, and world fairs have always demonstrated what the world can look like 50 years into the future."
On Saturday, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo added her voice to the chorus of support for the idea.
"For 150 years, World Expos have gathered nations from around the globe to celebrate their cultures, exchange ideas, and demonstrate their latest innovations," Eshoo said in a statement. "Silicon Valley is the ideal place to welcome the world to innovation and creativity. Moffett Field represents the perfect venue for economic, scientific and industrial leaders to gather and share their knowledge."
Lobbying for the idea is the Bay Area Council, which represents 270 Bay Area companies. BAC President Jim Wunderman says that as many as 70 million visitors would boost business in the area for six months, plus hundreds of acres of new infrastructure would be built that could be re-used by businesses and universities for years to come.
"Perhaps we could even create a Silicon Valley campus for the University of California, for free!" writes Wunderman in a recent opinion piece for the San Jose Mercury News. "Everything that's built could be used for a whole multitude of purposes, whether academic, business-related or nonprofit."
The cash-strapped University of California and its partners, including the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, are trying to build a major campus at Moffett.
"We're on hold right now because of the economy, but that would be a good way to jump start the project," said Bill Berry, president of University Associates, which is leading the effort to build a major UC campus at Moffett Field.
A former United States Naval Air Station, Moffett Field is over 1,800 acres of federally owned land. Much of it is unused, including dozens of vacant Navy buildings that are soon to be demolished for the university and NASA Research Park development. It is home to NASA Ames Research Center, a U.S. Army and Air National Guard presence, numerous private companies and a lightly used but very large airfield. But it could soon be used to hold exhibits from Silicon Valley and around the world.
Planning a world's fair for as many as 600,000 people a day could likely result in new infrastructure, not just for the southwest corner of Moffett but for "the entire place," Berry said.
It might even spur restoration of Hangar One. The iconic black and white structure's 1,100-foot length and 200-foot high ceiling creates a sense of wonder that is hard to top.
The 2010 world exposition in Shanghai is being an "economic stimulus package" for that city.
Academics in China estimate an $11.6 billion net economic impact from the Shanghai Expo on the surrounding region, which benefited from $40 billion worth of roads, subway lines and airport terminals, according to a news release from the governor's office.
Vice Mayor Jac Siegel noted that 600,000 people a day attend the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai and that Mountain View should probably expect similar traffic in the area. He said it could spur development of transportation improvements to and from downtown.
Siegel said he couldn't imagine the City Council not supporting the event, which would be "phenomenal."
When asked about the traffic that would result, he said, it will only be for six months. "It's not forever," he said.
In vying to host the event, Silicon Valley has competition from around the world, including the American cities of Minneapolis, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.
The event happens every five years and is governed by the Bureau International des Expositions in Paris. California and the U.S. will submit the formal Expo 2020 candidacy application in 2011. The Bureau is expected to announce the winner at the end of 2012, according to the release.
The last World Expo in the United States was in 1984 in New Orleans. It was held in the Bay Area on Treasure Island in 1939 and 1940.
Bay City News contributed to this report