SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department will be celebrating Chinese New Year 2015 by hosting the annual Chinatown Basketball Tournament at Betty Ann Ong (BAO) Chinese Recreation Center. The Chinese New Year Basketball Tournament has been a 20-year tradition as part of the month long Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco’s Chinatown. This is a two-day tournament that will take place starting at 6PM on Friday, February 20th and ending on Saturday night on February 21st.
“We are very excited to welcome the Year of the Ram by hosting our annual Chinatown Basketball Tournament at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Park General Manager. “And we are grateful to have the support from the Chinatown community, who care so much for our recreation facilities in neighborhood.”
Then on February 28th, in partnership with the greater Chinatown-North Beach community and San Francisco’s Middle Schools, SF Rec and Park will host a one-day Chinese New Year Basketball Jamboree, another long standing Chinatown tradition for the past 22 years. The partnership will be hosting six exciting basketball games with middle school students in celebration of Chinese New Year. There will be three boys and three girls teams competing. In addition, there will be special appearance by the Golden State Warriors Dance Team.
There is a deep and rich history of sports in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Basketball, in particular, has roots dating back to the 1930s and earlier. In 1939, the Hong Wah Kues, an all-Chinese professional team, barnstormed the nation for two years, compiling a record of 56-21. The six members of the Hong Wah Kues all came from SF’s Chinatown. Then in the 1940s, the San Francisco Saints traveling amateur Chinese team was formed in Chinatown.
Willie “Woo Woo” Wong, a 5’5” dynamo who played for the Saints, grew up playing basketball at Chinese Playground, just a few blocks from Chinese Recreation Center. He played at Lowell and Polytechnic High Schools and would later play for legendary coach Pete Newell at USF. Chinese Playground was renamed in Wong’s honor in 2006.
Norm OwYoung Jang, another Saints player, grew up playing at Chinese Recreation Center. In 1964, Jang would earn a tryout with the San Francisco Warriors. He did not make the team, but was one of the last cuts that season. Franklin Mieuli, owner of the Warriors, praised Jang for his talent and grit, and predicted that Jang’s efforts would inspire young Asian players to one day reach the NBA.
Percy Chu, another Saints player, went on to be a longtime recreation director at Chinese Rec Center now known as BAO Chinese Recreation Center, where he continued to inspire, coach and develop the next several generations of young basketball players.
The BAO Chinese Recreation Center, a community hub for many living and working in Chinatown, is a three story concrete building constructed in 1951. The Recreation Center is located on a steep site at the corner of Mason and Washington Streets. The Center serves the Chinatown-North Beach community, some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in San Francisco. In 2008, the voters of San Francisco allocated over $21 million to upgrading and repairing the Recreation Center.
SF Rec and Park in partnership with DPW facilitated a strong community design process with the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) and Asian Neighborhood Design (AND) to create a new state of the art recreation facility built to LEED-Silver certification for the BAO Chinese Recreation Center.
The construction included complete rebuilt of the old 22,212 square foot recreation center, indoor gym, repairs and renovation of the basketball court, and children’s play area, restoration of existing pathways, upgrades to infrastructure, removal of barriers and improved accessibility, as well as overall reconditioning of the landscape. Now, the new center has a building area of 24,234 square foot.
The Recreation Center’s construction began in September, 2010, and completed in July, 2012. SF Rec and Park hosted a topping-off ceremony with time capsule buried in the Center with Gordon J. Lau School students in spring, 2011. During the same year, Mayor Lee and SF Recreation and Park Commission, in commemoration of the ten year anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took place on the tragic day of September 11, 2001, named the Chinese Recreation Center in honor of Betty Ann Ong, a Chinese-American hero, who grew up in Chinatown and often played at Chinese Recreation Center with her brother and two sisters.