SF Chronicle: New Chinatown rec center will be built with a bit of history

A baseball signed by the mayor, a Muni bus pass, a beaded coin purse, photos and a gold coin are just a few of the mementos that will be tucked into a time capsule buried at the Chinese Recreation Center, which was razed and is being rebuilt.

City officials will be on hand today to place the last beam atop the rec center construction project in Chinatown, and to put the time capsule in place. If all goes according to plan, the box will be reopened a century from now.

Students from Gordon J. Lau Elementary School are providing many of the items, including a letter about what the rec center at Mason and Washington streets has meant to them. And imagine the thrill San Franciscans will have in 2111 when they unearth the metal box and come across the business cards of the team that worked on the construction project!

Mayor Ed Lee also is expected to announce his proposal to rename the center after San Francisco native Betty Ong, an attendant aboard the American Airlines Flight 11 jet that highjackers crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Ong, using an air phone, was the first to alert officials on the ground of the terrorist attacks.

The revamped rec center and playground, with a $21 million price tag, is scheduled to be the first major project completed with funding from a 2008 parks bond. Construction began in the spring of 2010 and is set to be wrapped up next spring.

While there may be no ”wow” items in the time capsule, it will provide a glimpse of a city as it once was. ”As the time capsule symbolizes, we expect that the new Chinese Rec Center will joyously serve Chinatown families far into the future,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the Recreation and Park Department.