SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Friday that the recently renovated Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground in Chinatown will reopen in time for Lunar New Year celebrations.
"I am so excited to open this playground and beautiful community space in Chinatown just in time for Lunar New Year," Breed said. "Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground has been reimagined as a creative, accessible place for children, seniors, and everyone in between to connect and play."
The renovations on the park between Sacramento and Clay streets took eight years. Funds for the $14.5 million renovation project came from the 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, but also included $4.5 million from the Downtown Park Fund, established in 1985 to collect fees from commercial developers in the downtown area. Additional funding was provided through the City's Open Space Fund.
The renovated park now features custom designed play equipment inspired by Chinese mythology, including a massive, climbable water dragon sculpture that wraps itself around a two-level tower and a fiery phoenix bridge. There's also an indoor theater area and basketball courts.
"These basketball playgrounds are gonna yield the next Jeremy Lin, the next Kobe Bryant, the next Lebron James. You're gonna see a chinatown superstar and they're gonna come out of this playground," Malcolm Yeung, exec director of the Chinatown Community Development Center said.
The city also redid the clubhouse and its rooftop court. The clubhouse now includes a large multi-purpose room with bleacher seating, a kitchenette, an elevator, expanded bathrooms, office space, and storage. On top of that, everything is ADA-accessible, with improved lighting and pavement.
"The incredible work of Chinatown stakeholders over the last decade to push this project over the finish line is a testament to the importance of this unique public playground and park for seniors and families living in cramped conditions," said Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
Opened in 1927 and formerly known as the Chinese Playground, the park was renamed in 2006 to honor Willie Wong, a Chinese American basketball star who played at the University of San Francisco from 1948-50. Wong earned his nickname due to crowds shouting "Woo! Woo!" every time he scored.
San Francisco Supervisor Connie Chan spent her childhood at the old playground, and said holding the grand opening on this day of all days was no accident.
"This is definitely the year that the community needs to be reminded of who we are as a community, that we're resilient and that we're ready to celebrate a brand new start," Chan said.
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