Palega Recreation Center Reopens After $21.2 Million Renovation

SF Rec & Park and the Portola community celebrate the restoration of a beloved playground

SAN FRANCISCO— The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and city officials, including Supervisor Malia Cohen, joined hundreds of Portola District friends and neighbors today in celebrating the reopening of Palega Recreation Center, a neighborhood favorite. The 80-year-old park and recreation center recently underwent a $21.2 million makeover, thanks to the 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond.

“Great transformational projects like the Palega Recreation Center are investments in the community and our City,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “I look forward to more and more celebrations that honor our residents and families and making sure our youth have parks, open spaces and recreational activities that keep them safe and healthy in neighborhoods across San Francisco.”

“It’s a pleasure to return to the neighborhood and witness this remarkable transformation,” said District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, who grew up in the area. “I’m proud that our neighbors now have such a beautiful resource available to them and for all to enjoy.”

Park users and the local community helped mold what has been one of the biggest transformations of the 2008 Neighborhood Parks bond, which has helped renovate parks, playgrounds and recreation centers all across the city.

“This fantastic new facility will continue to be a community hub for the diverse Portola neighborhood,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.  “Whether you’re a youth, an adult, athlete or artist, this facility has something for everyone.”

The project includes the renovation of the recreation center, children’s play area, and athletic courts. The new Palega Recreation Center has been restored to maintain historical elements throughout the building, but is also designed to meet a Silver rating in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credits from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC)

“We’re proud to have worked with the neighbors to design the playground, ball fields and recreation center to meet the Portola community’s needs,” said San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “Now the historic Palega Recreation Center is more usable, seismically safe, green and ready to serve the community for many years to come.”

In 1996, the Recreation and Park Commission voted unanimously to rename Portola Recreation Center in honor of Sululagi Palega, Jr., a young man who was tragically killed in Modesto two years earlier.  Palega grew up in the Portola neighborhood and was a regular visitor to the center, where he learned to play the sports that led him to be a local star at Balboa High School and City College of SF. At the time of his death, Palega was in the process of being hired by the Recreation and Park Department.

Sululagi Palega, Sr., and his family were on hand on Saturday.

The park’s new clubhouse also features a mosaic mural by Kelly Ording commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission. Located behind the clubhouse’s portico windows and visible from the street, Windmills pays homage to the Portola’s idyllic past as the center of the city’s commercial flower industry.  The windmills and greenhouses featured in the mural were once abundant in the Portola District. Additionally, a wind-activated sculpture named for the Greek God of the west wind, Zephyros, will join the park in the coming months.

“Congratulations to the Recreation & Park Department and its team on another remarkable park transformation,” said Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny. “The Arts Commission is proud that it could play a role in contributing to the beauty of this incredible community resource with this new mural by Kelly Ording and, in the next couple of months, a new kinetic sculpture by the artist team Rebar Art and Design Studio.”

The new recreation center will not be without some much-needed furniture and equipment, thanks to the San Francisco Parks Alliance.

“We’re so pleased to be able to donate $40,000 to outfit this beautiful new recreation center as part of our Gear Up partnership with the Recreation & Parks Department,” said Matt O’Grady,  Executive Director of the San Francisco Parks Alliance. “Overall, GearUp has provided more than a half million dollars to outfit recreation centers across the City. We look forward to continuing this partnership as the 2012 parks bond work gets underway.”

Today’s celebration featured a showcase of Rec & Park recreational activities, live dancing, and crafts.

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