WASHINGTON PARK — XS Tennis Village is starting construction on its $16.9 million tennis facility a year after breaking ground after discovering it needed an extra $4 million to clean up the former public housing land.
Kamau Murray, founder of Kenwood-based XS Tennis, said Thursday he found out after the groundbreaking in June of 2015 that he needed an extra $4 million to move electrical and sewer lines on the property at 5400 S. State St.
He said it took time to get all the building permits to begin construction on the 150,918-square-foot facility with 12 indoor tennis courts, a running track, classrooms and 15 outdoor courts and he's now confident the facility will open in July of 2017.
The plans for the facility have not changed in the last year, but the cost has risen to $16.9 million from $9.8 million.
Murray said he went back to his funders to ask for money to cover the gap and was able to raise the money in a little more than two months.
“At one point or another, all of our funding partners have had to double down,” Murray said.
The city is providing $2.9 million in tax subsidies for the project on the site of the Chicago Housing Authority’s former Robert Taylor Homes.
“I think it’s something we need to replicate in other parts of the city and other parts of the country,” said Eugene Jones Jr., CEO of the CHA.
He said the CHA was working with Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) to find a big box retailer for another portion of the Robert Taylor site.
Dowell said she was searching for a general merchandise retailer, but declined to provide specific businesses she was approaching.
Once the XS Tennis facility opens, it will serve 5,000 students if all of its tennis and tutoring programs are full.
Murray said the program will build up to the 5,000 students with its partner, the University of Chicago, which provides tutoring services for students in the programs.
Murray said he hopes to send more kids to college on tennis scholarships, and this year five students from the current Kenwood location earned tennis scholarships to Division I colleges.
With XS Tennis’ expansion in Washington Park and Metro Squash’s new facility in Woodlawn, racquet sports are growing quickly on the South Side.
“People just need something different — not everyone’s going to be 6-foot-2 inches,” Murray said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised Murray for his dedication to a project that has taken years to get to construction.
“He could be doing a lot of other activities, but he has dedicated himself to the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said. “All of us have been energized by him.”
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