SAN FRANCISCO, CA — San Francisco’s first public space designed and dedicated specifically for the practice of tai chi opened today amid a community celebration in McLaren Park, the San Francisco Recreation and Park announced.
The Mansell Tai Chi Court, located on John F. Shelley Drive near Mansell Street, resembles a plaza with low berms offering protection from the wind. It offers sweeping views of downtown San Francisco.
Formerly a decommissioned parking lot, the $1.16 million transformation includes new trees, seating, and landscaping. The project, funded through the 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, offers a new, accessible parking space and entry path from John F. Shelley Drive.
Though designed specifically for tai chi, the 4,500 square foot tai chi court will also welcome park goers who want to stop and admire the view. An asphalt path was realigned south to pass behind the court to offer uninterrupted views from the court and improve park circulation for hikers, bikers, and dog walkers.
“Tai Chi is an essential part of the fabric of San Francisco. It’s both an important cultural activity and great exercise. This will be a fantastic addition to McLaren Park, and I can’t wait to see it in use by people of all ages,” said State Senator Scott Wiener.
An extensive outreach process engaged community members through three community meetings. Neighbors considered a number of options and the final design was shaped by their feedback.
We are excited to open up the Mansell Tai Chi Court in McLaren for all of our communities to gather and practice tai chi and admire the view,” said Board President and District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton. “This adds to the much needed vibrancy for the southeastern neighborhoods of San Francisco.”
“I am thrilled that our city dedicated a safe, accessible, and culturally relevant public space for everyone to come learn and practice tai chi in McLaren Park,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park Commissioner Vanita Louie.
Historically, a passionate group of tai chi practitioners shared space with tennis players at the park’s tennis courts. The growing popularity of both activities prompted park neighbors to identify building a tai chi court as a top priority in the McLaren Park Vision Plan.
“Tai chi is a wonderfully healthy activity for people of all ages,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “Tai chi practitioners can be found nearly all of our parks, but this is the first time a public space has been designed specifically for their needs. We are thrilled to help the tai chi community grow and thrive.”
The centuries-old Chinese martial art, now practiced for its health benefits, is believed to have been brought to the U.S. in 1939, when Choy Hok Pang began teaching tai chi chuan in San Francisco’s Chinatown.