The former chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank is proposing to build one of the largest tennis training centers in the Washington area on 10 acres of parkland in College Park to offer professional instruction to disadvantaged youngsters.
Kenneth D. Brody has received preliminary approval from the Prince George's County Planning Board to construct a $5.5 million tennis complex with 27 indoor and outdoor courts, a running track and a clubhouse with a retail shop, lounge and classrooms. The facility would be privately maintained but would be open to the public to use for a fee.
Brody, who served from 1993 to 1996 as president and chairman of the government-held bank, also has offered to donate $25,000 a year to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to create a public recreation program for promoting tennis in Prince George's County.
"It's not every day someone comes with their checkbook in hand and wants to build a training center," said Chuck Montrie, park planning supervisor for the commission.
The center would be funded entirely through charitable contributions and would target economically disadvantaged athletes who could not otherwise afford professional training.
Its advisory board includes an A-list group of prominent Washington residents and tennis enthusiasts. Among them: William H.G. FitzGerald, former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and director of the International Tennis Hall of Fame; Paul Ignatius, former secretary of the Navy and the former chairman of the Washington Tennis Foundation; and Henry Kennedy, a federal judge and senior men's tournament player.
Brody, who founded a private investment firm in Washington after leaving the Export-Import Bank, said he originally planned to build a training center near the grounds of the U.S. Open in New York. He had lived and worked in New York as a partner at Goldman Sachs Group before President Clinton tapped him to lead the Export-Import Bank--a government credit agency that provides financial assistance to facilitate U.S. exports.
But when he decided to stay in Washington, Brody, a Silver Spring native and graduate of the University of Maryland, began looking for a site for the training center in the Washington area. He decided in June to build the training center in Prince George's County and negotiated a 20-year lease with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to build on its land.
The lease still has to be voted on by the Prince George's County Council. A council committee is scheduled to begin reviewing plans for the center next week.
Council member Peter A. Shapiro (D-Brentwood) said he is particularly pleased that the project would be located inside the Capital Beltway.
"You could look at it as just tennis, but this is also something that could spur revitalization," Shapiro said. "We've had the good fortune to run into a very generous and creative man."
Brody said the College Park site is ideal for his Junior Tennis Champions Center--which his family's foundation would fund--because it is close to a Metro station and to the Capital Beltway and would adjoin an existing park.
"Prince George's is a good place to be, in part, because it has a very, very, good stable family base, and one of the things you know is when kids are trying for excellence they need a stable family base," Brody said.
The training center would feature 15 outdoor courts with hard and soft surfaces and 12 indoor courts housed in three structures made of steel and fabric.
The mission of the program is to train young athletes to qualify for Division 1 college scholarships. Most of the athletes are expected to need full or partial scholarships to participate in the $6,500-a-year training program.
Brenda Gilmore, executive director of the Greater Prince George's County Tennis Foundation--which encourages children to play tennis--said the training center would be a "tremendous boon to the community."
"I don't think it can be anything but something good for the county," Gilmore said. "The kids are there and are interested."
CAPTION: Tennis, Anyone? (This graphic was not available)