Anonymous private donors spearheaded the much-needed expansion by raising most of the funds, $11 million of the total $19 million. The city of Memphis contributed an additional $3 million for the project scheduled for January 2021 completion.
The thriving University of Memphis men’s and women’s tennis teams were left needing a facility when the Racquet Club of Memphis, also host of a popular professional tournament from 1975-2017, closed in favor of more lucrative real-estate alternatives. Past Champions included Hall of Famers Andy Roddick, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.
UofM President M. Rudd said the new facility is essential for the tennis team to keep their winning record.
“Given the closure of the Racquet Club, this new facility is critical for our nationally ranked Tennis teams,” Rudd said.
Last year, the men’s doubles team of David O’Hare and Joe Salisbury started the season ranked No. 3 in the country, the highest national ranking ever for a Tigers’ doubles tandem. Not to be outdone, the Lady Tigers likewise ended 2018 with 16 wins, their most since 2013 and their first national ranking (71) since 2015.
Women’s tennis head coach Hayden Perez released a statement about how the redevelopment to the Leftwich building could benefit the team.
“The new facility not only would be another asset to the campus but also bring in future tennis players from other countries,” Perez said. “A world-class home court in Leftwich means facetime on the UofM campus and citywide exposure for the international sport’s top players and influencers. Upon completion, the women’s program already boasting six international players on the ten-person roster hopes to feature some of the most visible star-athletes on campus. “
In addition to housing the Tigers’ nationally relevant programs and various amateur events, Leftwich will be a shot in the arm both to competitive junior development and local youth development in general.
“The courts will be available to the community, including the opportunity to grow youth programs throughout our City,” Rudd said.
Kevin Kane, President and CEO of Memphis Tourism, said this project is bigger than just the university and tennis. Kane said Leftwich will have a direct economic impact on tourism and local businesses.
“This first-class facility is not only a great asset shared by the University and the public, but also will attract amateur tournaments bringing millions in revenue to the city of Memphis and Shelby County,” Kane said.
Kane said Leftwich will unify Memphians of all stripes and confidence that a diverse field of visitors from near and far will be thrilled with the stunning improvement.
“This is truly a tremendous amenity for our city and should be celebrated by all citizens,” Kane said.