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> Ping Tom Memorial Park is named in honor of a prominent business and civic leader.
In 1962, the automobile was officially king. In the process of constructing the Dan Ryan Expressway, two Chinatown area parks were demolished. A small park, under 1 acre in area, was developed in response, but the community still felt the lack of open space. Ping Tom fought for years for the construction of a new park, and finally, in 1984 he formed the Chinese American Development Corporation. The firm's first project was the $100 million dollar Chinatown Square. Later, they partnered with the Chicago Park District to make plans for a larger open space to service the Chinatown Area.
Although Tom died in 1995, his work continued and construction of the park began in 1998. It was renamed in his honor shortly after it opened.
The park was designed by Ernest C. Wong, who took inspiration from Chinese architecture and brought it to Chicago's Chinatown. The design is heavily influenced by structures Wong saw in Suzhou, China. This includes the Pagoda-style structure along the river. The park's entrance is marked by four 20 foot tall columns, each etched with Chinese dragons. They are modeled after a traditional Chinese courtyard. The gardens are also inspired by Chinese design, and they include gingko and bamboo trees.
Phase two of the park began in 2002 when the Chicago Park District acquired 5 acres of land adjacent to the park. A number of projects were completed, including the Ping Tom Memorial Park Fieldhouse, which was opened by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2013. It contains 30,000 square feet of facilities including a gymnasium, natatorium and fitness center. The entrance of the fieldhouse features a sculpture donated by the City of Shanghai in 2015. The stainless steel piece entitled "Stone Talk" commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Sister City designation between Shanghai and Chicago. It was renamed Leonard M. Louie Fieldhouse after the founder of the Ping Tom Park Advisory Council.
Cover image source: Richie Diesterheft, CC BY 2.0, no changes made.