Tennis Center Opens Field of Dreams
By Michael Horowitz
BRONX, NEW YORK, JUNE 17- For benefactors Skip Hartman, Larry Leeds, and Tory Kiam, the opening of the $26.5-million Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning was a dream-come-true following an effort that spanned more than a decade --- an effort to popularize tennis in minority communities in the south Bronx and other parts of the city.
For retired City Clerk Carlos Cuevas, former Mayor David Dinkins, and Lorraine Rohlsen-Alexander, vital senior citizens who have been trailblazers in the effort to bring tennis to black and Latino youngsters, the opening of the tennis center in the south Bronx represented a highlight achievement in careers of activism over the last four decades.
For Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who helped to cut the ribbon signifying the opening of the tennis center, the facility served to reinforce the view that the south Bronx has bounced from the time, in the 1970s, when the burning of buildings symbolized the borough’s deterioration.
The opening of the tennis center, which will feature 20 courts, 10 of which will be enclosed, represents the best that can be achieved in partnerships between public and private donors.
The opening of the center was celebrated at a gala held at the center, a two-story facility that is located within Crotona Park, a 127-acre landscaping achievement that is located in the heart of the south Bronx.
The tennis center, which Hartman conceived and developed under the auspices of the New York Junior Tennis League (NYJTL), will serve an estimated 30,000 youngsters in the Bronx with free tennis instruction and a variety of after-school activities that will include help with homework and the opening of new vistas for youngsters served by the organization that tennis great Arthur Ashe and Hartman started in 1969.
The center is named in honor of Cory Leeds, a world-class tennis player whose life was cut short at the age of 45.
Cory’s father, Larry, a successful businessman who has made his money in the fashion industry, said that his involvement in the tennis center, which featured a personal monetary contributions and involvement in major fundraising efforts, was a way of creating something lasting and meaningful that will forever be associated with his son and the importance of tennis in his life.
Cuevas, a long-time activist with the NYJTL, stressed, “Even at this stage of my life, I play tennis two or three times a week. The new tennis center will introduce children to a lifelong sport that will influence their lives in more ways than they can imagine.”
Dinkins, who played a key role in the opening of the city’s major tennis center in Flushing, Queens, during the time he was the city’s mayor, “This new center is a splendid part of the New York Junior Tennis League. Thirty thousand kids live in walking distance from this wonderful new center. It is a tribute to what Skip Hartman and the NYJTL have accomplished.”
The former mayor added, “Some of the youngsters who are exposed to tennis through the Bronx center will go on to become world-class players, while others will get college scholarships. More importantly, tens of thousands of youngsters will become better people as a result of their exposure to what this new tennis center has to offer.”
Rohlsen-Alexander, who founded the Co-op City Tennis Club with her late husband, Milton, 40 years ago, stressed, “This new tennis center is impressive and awesome. It is a kick in the behind to uplift Crotona Park and the neighborhoods that surround it. It represents a culmination of efforts by many of us to bring tennis to youngsters in the inner city."
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