Golfer Tiger Woods, the Walt Disney Company and a bevy of current and former tennis stars, including Chris Evert, James Blake and U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, are all supporting a proposed massive academic and athletic complex in the Los Angeles area.
Woods’s foundation and the United States Tennis Association are among the people and groups that contributed $50 million toward what founders hope will be the nation’s largest academic and athletic facility. The Carol Kimmelman Athletic and Academic Campus is expected to have a 25,000-square foot learning center and 40 tennis courts.
The tennis-centric complex will serve as a home for at-risk youth to learn the sport, say its builders. They also hope the 87-acre facility will be a place to develop critical learning and life skills focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects.
“I want a lot of kids to go there and become great tennis pros,” Blake, who had a career record of 366-256 before retiring in 2013, told Sportico, “but I know that’s not realistic. What is realistic is that a place like this helps produce a lot of good members of society.”
The facility will be named after Carol Kimmelman, a teacher at Raymond Avenue Elementary School in South Los Angeles who died of ovarian cancer in 2017. The school was near one of the flashpoints of the 1992 civil unrest that rocked the city, according to her husband, Doug.
“The goal is to help thousands of kids get a fair shake in life,” said Kimmelman, a Los Angeles-based philanthropist. “Carol used to tell our [four] kids that they were born on third base, but a lot of kids were born without a bat. I want a lot of kids to start here and then end up at Microsoft.”
Carol was a member of the 1983 national champion USC women’s tennis team and for much of her life was a heavy proponent of tennis as a transformative force.
One of the biggest components of the deal coming together was the backing of Woods’s TGR Foundation.
“He’s been a huge part of this,” said Kimmelman. “He always says to me, ‘It won’t be golf that will set kids free. It will be what they learn in the classroom that will.’”
Carson, Calif., was picked as the location for the facility mainly thanks to the efforts of Mark Ridley-Thomas, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The lease is $100 a year.
The United States Tennis Association is putting its expertise (and money) behind the project. Also, current and former players like Blake, 18-time Grand Slam singles winner Chris Evert and 2017 U.S. Open champion Stephens are advisors and ambassadors.
“This is a really big deal,” said Blake. “We think this will change a lot of kids’ lives.”