Ironing Out The Kink: 'The Armory' Reboots As Live Event Venue

The fact that the hulking structure at the corner of Mission and 14th streets was recently used to shoot porn is notable, but the San Francisco Armory has had myriad purposes since it was constructed in 1912.

The onetime National Guard training facility built on the grounds of a former amusement park was also one of the city's most popular sports venues, a location in the original Star Wars trilogy, and a construction and rehearsal space for the San Francisco Opera, among other things.

The building was constructed in 1912.

Kink.com purchased the building in 2006 and began using it as a production facility the following year. After investing millions into renovating the cavernous space, the BDSM production company laid off much of its staff and announced in January 2017 that it would cease using it for porn shoots.

Given shifts in the porn industry that made the company less profitable, “it no longer makes sense to use a building as vast as the Armory for production,” founder Peter Acworth told Vocativ.

Now hosting artists like Tyler the Creator, The Chemical Brothers and Erykah Badu, the 200,000-square-foot building, which can accommodate a crowd of 4,000, will spring into life this weekend for NYEPOP, a three-day music festival

After installing additional soundproofing, the largest lighting truss west of the Mississippi, a powerful sound system and obtaining a new permit that lets parties go until 2am, the largest unsupported enclosed space in San Francisco is again becoming an amusement park—but one targeted at late-night revelers and music fans.

According to SFGate, recent renovations were completed with a $4 million loan that also covered "pressing needs such as fixing the leaky roof and repairing crumbling turrets."

The 250th Coast Artillery, 1934. | Image: California State Military History Museum

The sheer size of the armory can only be appreciated from the inside, according to Matt McCauley, the facility's tours department director. Originally unenclosed, the massive drill court was used mostly for practice by National Guard units, which trained with non-firing gun replicas and artillery.

Mission Local reports that the court was used from the 1920s to the 1940s as a boxing venue, eventually earning the title, "Madison Square Garden of the West." 

On October 21st, the Armory hosted its first boxing matches in 50 years, where San Francisco native Karim Mayfield defeated Miguel Dumas and undefeated Raquel “Pretty Beast” Miller took down South Carolina’s Lisa Noel Garland in a first round knockout.

The Armory also appears in scenes from The Empire Strikes Back; to shoot battles in space, crews built an all-black enclosure to shoot explosions for special-effect sequences sixty feet above the drill court.

Workers prepare to hoist balloons for NYEPOP 2018.

When Kink.com officially moved production out of the Armory in January, McCauley needed to find a new angle for groups interested in touring the Moorish revival castle.

The new tour examines the many uses of the building and the surrounding neighborhood, including Woodward's Gardens, the amusement park, museum and aquarium that spanned 13th and 15th streets between Mission and Valencia in the 1800s. 

Schedules for historical tours are subject to change, but are usually available  through Eventbrite. For dates and times, email tours@sfarmory.com or visit the venue's website.

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Ironing out the kink the armory reboots as live event venue