SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) – San Francisco officials opened the city’s first dedicated tai chi space Saturday in McLaren Park.

The Mansell Tai Chi Court sits on a converted parking lot with sweeping views of downtown and low berms offering protection from the wind.

The $1.6 million project was funded through the 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, according to a news release from San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.

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 and offer uninterrupted views from the court and improve park circulation.

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.

According to the news release, 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.

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