Mar 27

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Palega Park improvements begin with ceremonial ground breaking

David Campos joins SF park officials to break the ground for new Palega Park improvements

David Campos joins SF park officials to break the ground for new Palega Park improvements

It poured with rain last week when San Francisco Park representatives, our local supervisor David Campos and a small selection of weather faring locals came together to kick off the 21 million dollars worth of park improvements. But the weather didn’t dampen (groan) the event and there was a big round of applause as we heard about the commitments the city has made to totally renovate this entire park. The plans show a brand new playground, totally re-turfed soccer grounds, baseball diamond and softball ground. The recreation center is also going to be gutted and totally remodelled.

This morning I met the contractor and city project manager on the site and was told everything is moving along according to schedule. Portola Planet will be following this very closely (I live right next door) and when major changes take place we’ll keep everyone up to date.

Walter Lister Jr. is pictured batting at Portola Playground in this 1950’s photograph. (Courtesy of Ron Gaggero, Rayna Garibaldi and Arcadia Publishing)

But first, I want to report on a little history about the park. Back in the 1880’s the area was used by cattlemen. Steers would be driven up from Felton Street to a holding pen until they met their demise at the slaughter-house. Much later on the Portola Playground was created as the area became more residential and the park was host to many local baseball games. The baseball field itself was in 1982 named  Joe Gaggero Sr field after the famous bay area semi professional umpire. He used to manage four or five local teams, including the Portola Merchants.

The Sululagi M. Palega Jr Recreation Center was dedicated in honor of Sululagi M. Palega Jr on August 3, 1996. (Courtesy of David R -Mehrwein, Rayna Garibaldi and Arcadia Publishing)

In 1996 it was renamed the Palega Park after Sululagi M. Palega Jr, a local Portola athlete. Sululagi was the son of a longtime anti-violence activist and at age 22 he was tragically gunned down in Modesto while travelling to play basketball for his church team. His murder was a terrible case of mistaken identity, the killer believing Sululagi was a local gang member. He spent much of his time at the Palega recreation center and at the time of his death was in the process of being hired as a Recreation and Park Department director.

How do I know so much about this after only living here for a short time? I’ve had chance to read the excellent book from which the above black and white photos have been taken, “Images of America, San Francisco’s Portola“. We’ve been given permission to reproduce some of the images on this blog and over the coming months we’ll intertwine these images of our neighborhood’s history with current stories and events. You can buy your own copy of the book over at Amazon or direct from the publisher.

So the history of this park continues and we cannot wait for it to reopen in just over a year. Keep an eye on our blog, we’ll be following the improvements as they happen.

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2012/03/palega-park-improvements-begin-with-ceremonial-ground-breaking/

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