SF Rec and Park’s Joe DiMaggio Playground Opens After $7.3 Million Renovation

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department announced today the opening of Joe DiMaggio Playground after its recent $7.3 million renovation. Joe DiMaggio Playground is approximately a 110,000 square foot park with a children’s play area, tennis courts, bocce courts, pool building and sport courts. It is located immediately adjacent to the North Beach Pool and Clubhouse, as well as the newly constructed North Beach Branch Library (opened in 2014). The $7.3 million renovation project of Joe DiMaggio Playground is funded by the 2012 Parks Bond, State Housing Related Park Program Grant, and a generous donation from the Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground. The reopening will take place November 14, 2015 from 11a.m. – 3p.m. There will be zumba, a smoothie bike, food for sale, activities at the North Beach Library, and a free swim (from 1:30-3p.m.) at the North Beach Pool. Mobile Rec will also be there. Joe DiMaggio Playground is located at 651 Lombard Street in North Beach.

“Having had the opportunity to tour the construction progress with community leaders who care deeply about renovations to their neighborhood playground, I am excited to see all the smiles on the faces of the children who will play on their newly transformed Joe DiMaggio Playground,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “One of our favorite San Franciscans, Joe DiMaggio, grew up playing on this playground, and we will continue to invest in our youth and families so they too can grow up and be successful in our City.”

“In our long-settled and densely populated NE neighborhoods, we strive to make every bit of open space count. The renovation of Joe DiMaggio Playground provides greatly increased recreation opportunities as well as a beautiful park that will be a boon to residents and local businesses. I am deeply grateful to the Friends of Joe DiMaggio who stuck with this effort for over 16 long years, and to Phil Ginsburg and his team at San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, who stood by us at every turn,” stated District 3 Supervisor Julie Christensen.

“I’m proud to see the results of our collective hard work over the years in renovating Joe DiMaggio Playground,” said David Chiu, District 17 Assemblymember and former Board of Supervisors President. “The much needed upgrade has turned a 105-year-old playground into a retreat for so many families.”

“Our parks and playgrounds provide fun and safe space for our children and families to grow and thrive, and nothing gets better than a space with a grand playground next to a pool and clubhouse as well as a great library.” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Park General Manager. “Now this will be a community hub where everyone can enjoy a great learning environment to nurture their minds, and an exciting and creative space to exercise their bodies.”

The renovation expands and improves the children’s play area with new safety and adheres to ADA requirements. The upgrades also include additional landscaping and seating throughout the Park.  Furthermore, park safety will be increased by reorganizing the site’s programmed activities and increasing the internal connections within the Park. The plan also transforms one block of Mason Street from a street with vehicular traffic into a public park space – this was conceived to make this a neighborhood gathering place with the new North Beach Branch Library which opened in 2014.

The Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground have raised more than $300,000 to support some of the finishing touches for the playground. They are recognizing the donors who supported the renovation with tiles that encircle the playground on the outside perimeter seat wall along Greenwich, Powell, and Lombard Street for approximately 700 linear feet. The wall will be referred to as “The band of North Beach Legacy Tiles.” The money also went to a mosaic fish, larger trees, improved perimeter fencing, and several boulders.

“I am so proud and happy to see the completion of the construction of the new and improved Joe DiMaggio Playground. We are so thankful to this wonderful community for coming together to support the playground,” said Teresa Dal Santo of the Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground. “We are especially grateful to our founding members of Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground, Supervisor Julie Christensen and Landscape Architect Lizzy Hirsch. They were instrumental in focusing the dreams of our volunteer group to complete the hard work necessary to realize the completion of this project. We are all looking forward to seeing the next generation of children playing here.”

The playground was built with the intention of creating a synergy between the park and the library. The idea is that a parent or child could check out a book and read it while enjoying the outdoor public space. The new 8,500-square-foot library was planned in concert with the park so that its windows overlook the entire park and its plaza entrance leads directly to the playground. The library also includes dedicated, separate children’s and teen’s rooms, plus a community program room for neighborhood activities, creating an entire block that is a true family friendly hub for North Beach.

“This neighborhood is getting the recreational and education resources it so richly deserves. In 2014, we opened a first class, 21st century library in North Beach and now it’s truly being completed with this wonderful playground, bringing this vision to a reality,” said City Librarian Luis Herrera.

San Francisco Public Works managed the master planning process and construction of the renovated playground and new library. Working closely with the community, the department’s landscape architects designed the playground – new layout, play structures, landscaping and more.

“I want to commend the dedication and perseverance of the families in the North Beach neighborhood who worked for so many years to make this playground a reality,” said San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “Joe DiMaggio Playground is finally worthy of its namesake and will be a model for future playground design in San Francisco.”

Joe DiMaggio Playground is named after the legendary baseball player, Joe DiMaggio, who grew up in North Beach, San Francisco.  Instead of following his father’s footsteps as a fisherman, Joe DiMaggio followed his older brother Vince onto San Francisco’s sandlot baseball fields, including the now Joe DiMaggio Playground, formerly North Beach Playground. Quickly, Joe DiMaggio became the playground legend. In 1930, at the age of sixteen, DiMaggio dropped out of Galileo High School to dedicate his life to baseball.  He played daily at North Beach Playground.  And when DiMaggio’s older brother Vince was signed to the San Francisco Seals in 1932, the City’s Pacific Coast League team, the club’s shortstop was injured near the end of the season, so Vince suggested his younger brother as a replacement. After playing in the last few games of the 1932 season, DiMaggio won a full place on the Seals’ roster in 1933.

During that first full season with the Seals, Joe DiMaggio batted .340 with 28 home runs and put together a 61-game hitting streak. Then after two more spectacular seasons with the Seals in which he hit .341 and .398, DiMaggio got his shot at the majors and became a player for the New York Yankees. Then the rest is history.

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