Near the seat of San Francisco’s political power, bicyclists were flying through the air – hanging on by their seats. Framed against San Francisco’s City Hall, skateboarders on Thursday skidded across a giant ramp as bicyclists careened over mounds of dirt – where mounds of dirt normally ought not to be.
“The Dew tour has done a really great job of turning this urban environment, and make it like a festival atmosphere” said San Jose BMX bike rider Ryan Nyquist.
The transformation of San Francisco’s Civic Center looked like a skater’s fantasy version of Extreme Makeover or Pimp My Plaza. The entire center was taken over by skate ramps, dirt hills and booths promoting everything from cars to the Dew Tour’s sponsor, Mountain Dew.
“You can come down here and learn how to ride a BMX bike -- come down here and learn how to skateboard,” said Dew Tour organizer Chris Prybylo. “So it’s the best athletes in the world and a lot of fun all day long as well.”
The four-day free event will feature 200 top athletes competing in everything from BMX bike stunts to skate board riding to Motocross demonstrations.
But for some, the only thing extreme about the four day competition was the makeover of Civic Center. San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos said he was concerned the event would monopolize the plaza for a total of 16 days including set-up and break-down.
“We closed down this park probably altogether for maybe four weeks in one and a half months,” Avalos said, referring to other recent corporate events in Civic Center. “So our park is generally closed off to public access.”
Avalos said he was also upset at the message the city was sending by partnering with a soft-drink company, whose logo was plastered throughout the grounds.
“We actually had an event that was a soda-free summer event,” said Avalos. “Now we’re actually supporting a soda company by doing an agreement with them to put on this event.”
Parks and Recreation commissioners said they weren’t required to vote on the event, which was approved by park’s staff. San Francisco Parks and Recreation director Phil Ginsburg said he was excited about the event, as the city looks for more ways to utilize the plaza.
“We’ve got big events in Civic Center all year long,” said Ginsburg. “We’ve got big parades and festivals that require setup and breakdown. And you know it’s a balance.”
Ginsburg said the city would make more than $300,000 dollars from the event, not counting hotel room bookings and restaurant outings. He said despite the tour’s corporate soft-drink sponsor, the four day event sent a healthy message.
“The event promotes healthy activity,” said Ginsburg. “It promotes skating, biking and getting kids outside.”
The free public event wraps up Sunday with a community day that will allow the public to try out some of the skate ramps and bike courses. All evidence of dirt bike jumps and skate ramps is set to be cleaned-up by next Wednesday.