Sunset Recreation Center reopens after major renovation

Sunset Rec Center ribbon cutting

The Sunset Recreation Center opened Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with City officials. Photo: Matthew Snyder / Ocean Beach Bulletin

By Matthew Snyder

After undergoing nearly 15 months of renovations, its first in almost 60 years, the Sunset Recreation Center reopened to the public Friday afternoon.

Already a focus of neighborhood activity, the facility now not only is modernized, but also seismically upgraded and poised to carry on that role for many years to come.

“The city did an inventory and took a look at all the facilities that we have across the city,” said Supervisor Carmen Chu, whose District 4 consists primarily of the Sunset. “We found in the Sunset District, that the Sunset Rec Center is the only full-service rec center in the district. We took a look at all the different factors that were important, including public safety, and we knew that we had to renovate this space.”

Some $13.7 million went into the new Sunset Rec Center, one of 13 San Francisco parks to be renovated with funds from the 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhoods Parks Bond, which dedicated $117 million to similar projects throughout the city.

Encompassing nearly four acres, the center occupies the entire block between 28th and 29th avenues, and Lawton and Moraga streets.

Notable improvements to the Sunset Rec Center include children’s play areas, fields and courts, the restoration of roads and pathways, reconditioning of landscaping, upgrades to lighting and irrigation, and improvements to overall accessibility.

Local resident Angie Chew said she was very excited to see the new-and-improved facility back up and running.

Sunset Recreation Center reopening with Supervisor Carmen Chu

Supervisor Carmen Chu tried her hand at table tennis at the newly reopened Sunset Recreation Center. Photo: Matthew Snyder / Ocean Beach Bulletin

“I’m looking forward to the programs starting up again, especially for our childhood education,” said Chew, a mother of five children. “We’re on 28th and Vicente, and going to the other rec centers is OK, but it’s not as convenient. I’m used to it here.”

Recreation and Park Department chief Phil Ginsburg presided over an hour-long ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday in the gleaming new gymnasium, along with Chu, plus a boisterous mix of students from nearby Lawton Middle School, local residents and city employees.

Also attending the event were San Francisco Department of Public Works director Mohammed Nuru and mayor’s Education Advisor Hydra Mendoza, standing in for Mayor Ed Lee.

Nuru praised the center’s sustainable design, which features solar-paneled roofing, a rain garden and water tanks to capture rain.

Chu said that before beginning design, the center’s planning committee held a number of public meetings to hear community feedback on potential improvements.

Along with increased indoor space for dance classes and basketball, Chu said, automated bathrooms were a popular choice.

“The best way to design something is actually to include the community in the design process. It’s kind of a no-brainer,” Ginsburg added.

“And the partnership with the community doesn’t stop with the opening; the facility is going to have a community recreation council.

“Community members will be able to participate in the governance of this center, and help steward it and decide on the types of programming that the community wants. It’s community-driven programming rather than department-driven programming.”

Tom Iglesias, the facility’s coordinator, said the center will have limited hours while C.L.W. contracting attends to some final finishing touches during mornings.

Programs will not begin until January, but the center will host a “Breakfast for Santa” event and two sports camps before then.

“Pretty much it’ll just be myself that’s staffing here,” Iglesias said. “We don’t have any volunteers yet, but I’m very confident we’ll get a few. This facility is made to be multi-use, and we’re going to do that. We’ll be able to provide anywhere from Zumba to youth basketball to ceramics.”

The Sunset Rect Center will be open Tuesday to Friday from 1-9 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Beginning in January, the center will run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on most days.

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