New soapbox race may roll through park

San Francisco is known for its quirky events, from big-wheel races to road races with costumed participants. This October, a new one is expected to join the club — the Red Bull Soapbox Race at Mission Dolores Park.

The commercial event, which will take place in The City on Oct. 18, is expected to draw 40,000 attendees.

The first race of its kind in the United States was held in St. Louis in 2006. In 2007, it was held in Seattle and Providence, R.I.

Red Bull, the energy-drink company, said it has produced more than 35 such races worldwide. This year, San Francisco would join Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Denver as host cities of the event.

“More than 30 teams of gear heads and auto amateurs speed down Dolores Street in their homemade, human-powered vehicles in a race against the clock,” Red Bull said in promotional materials.

Today, the Recreation and Park Commission is scheduled to vote on permitting the event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and also allow the sale of food, beverages, alcohol and merchandise in the park. Alcohol would be sold until 4:30 p.m., according to the commission. Organizers would pay The City nearly $32,000 in permit fees.

“Mission Dolores Park will be the staging and exhibit areas for the Red Bull Soapbox event that will occur on street closures on Dolores Street,” the commission report said. “The entire Mission Dolores Park, including the tennis courts, will be used as a spectator area for the event.”

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose district includes the park, said he supports the event and helped with community outreach.

The event comes as residents near the park have complained about unchecked behavior of large crowds, traffic and drinking by those informally gathering in the park on the weekends.

“People don’t mind having events as long as they are well-managed and well-organized,” Dufty said.

The race itself could draw some fierce competition; first-place finishers win a VIP trip to a NASCAR event with access to the race pits, while second-place finishers will have the opportunity to drive a NASCAR race car around a track.

Dufty said that organizers of the event “have a good appreciation for what the neighborhood concerns are and I think this is going to be a really well-crafted event. It just should be exciting.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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