Sitting a few feet away from a brand new domino pavilion in North Beach, Mercedes Castro smiled wide as she remembered learning how to play with her abuelos — her grandparents.
“Since I was a little girl, I was raised playing dominoes with my grandparents,” she said.
The 62-year-old Cuban immigrant was one of nearly 16 seniors who came out Tuesday morning to inaugurate North Beach’s domino pavilion, which features four permanent tables that can accommodate up to 16 players. Built by the walkway on 72nd Street, a short stroll from the North Beach Bandshell and the UNIDAD Senior Center, the $147,000 pavilion is the first of its kind in the Beach.
The ADA accessible pavilion will be open from dawn till dusk, and a roll-down security gate will close the facility at night. Players can check out domino sets at the senior center.
The city celebrated the occasion by holding a tournament, where Giraldo Diago, a former champion domino player in Cuba, threw down his fichas in the strong ocean breeze blowing through North Beach.
“It’s a like a therapy, playing dominoes,”said the 74-year-old before the games and smack-talk began. “It keeps us sharp.”
Sharp, indeed. Angel Raul Chateloin, 84, said you got to keep track of what your opponents are putting down and know when to play what tiles.
But it’s also about getting lucky.
“If you get good fichas, you’ll win,” he said.