Tennis changed 33-year-old Kamau Murray’s life earning him a full college scholarship. So it was no surprise (except to his parents) when he decided to purchase the Chicago tennis center where he first learned tennis in 2008.
Today Murray’s program, XS Tennis on the city’s South Side, has outgrown its five-court space.
Hundreds of Chicago public school students come to the center to learn tennis. It also attracts collegiate teams and up-and-coming international tennis champs. Murray’s star student, 18-year-old Taylor Townsend, made an impressive Grand Slam debut at the French Open and defeated a player ranked 20th in the world. Then ranked 205th in the world, Townsend has moved up to 108th in less than four months.
“Ranked number one in the world in the junior division in 2012, Townsend burst onto the Grand Slam scene this year, reaching the third round in the French Open and also earning wild-card berths to participate in both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, where she lost to Serena Williams, the tournament’s eventual winner, in the first round last month,” reports The Huffington Post.
It is considered the Midwest’s largest minority-owned tennis club. A total of 22 XS Tennis players have earned full college scholarships and the organization’s free in-school tennis programs serves 2,000 CPS students each year.
Now the center has to move–but not far.
Because XS Tennis’s lease is expiring and the building going up for sale, Murray is looking to build a new $9.8 million 112,000-square-foot, 27-court tennis village to house the expanded program.
“I’m trying to salvage opportunities on the South Side. It was not intended to become this big, but now it’s just too good to stop,” Murray recently told HuffPost. “If I let it close, there would not be a single place south of Roosevelt [Road] to play tennis in Chicago. I don’t think that’s fair. That’s how it is in the rest of the country, but now how it will be in my city.”
The new tennis village will be located on the former site of the Robert Taylor Homes and already has attracted notable support. Tennis champion Billie Jean King has lent her support to the effort. Murray is trying to raise the last $1 million he needs before breaking ground on the facility, which some have said should move to a wealthy part of Chicago.
“People think I’m crazy putting tennis courts [there],” Murray explained. “We’d make a lot more money in the suburbs, but the access will be here. Our focus needs to be on creating opportunities for all types of kids.”