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New York Junior Tennis & Learning’s Crotona Park center will open June 15

Cary Leeds tennis center to open in June

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A world-class tennis center is set to open in the Bronx next month.

New York Junior Tennis & Learning will celebrate the opening of the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in Crotona Park on June 15.

When it opens, the multi-use 12,000-square foot, two-story clubhouse will contain classrooms, a youth lounge and fitness center, and a technology learning lab that will facilitate NYJTL’s educational initiatives, as well as a fully-functional tennis club with locker rooms and a pro shop.

The center’s 20 tennis courts, 10 of which will be covered for weather, plus two to be built with stadium seating, will host more than 6,000 hours per year of free tennis for New York City youth, in addition to numerous tournaments.

The Crotona Park courts have been home to one of NYJTL’s existing community tennis programs, which offers free tennis instruction to thousands of kids across the city, for more than 20 years.

The organization also already provides academic programming at dozens of sites across the city, including 15 schools in the Bronx, five of which are within walking distance of the tennis center.

The ties to the neighborhood made Crotona Park the obvious place for the Cary Leeds center, said NYJTL CEO Deborah Antoine.

“This is an old home for us,” she said.

NYJTL’s mix of tennis and academic programing uses sports as a vehicle for learning life skills, said Antoine.

Tennis helps the kids learn about persistence, winning and losing, and other important lessons which ultimately help them succeed in school and other areas.

“It’s all about developing character,” said Antoine.

NYJTL’s programming attracts parents because of the emphasis on learning and the nurturing environment, she said, and the families’ love of tennis comes later.

“It’s contagious,” said Antoine.

The organization wants the center to be a place that hosts model programs, such as Breakthrough New York, which coaches high-ability, low-income middle schools students all the way through the college admissions process. Their third location will be based at the clubhouse.

Other partners include the Tennis Channel, which has provided film equipment to teach the kids about broadcast and media, and the Women Sports Foundation.

“It’s so much more than a tennis club,” said Antoine about the center.

But the tennis club, the revenue from which will support the non-profit, is filled with reminders of the sport’s legends.

The clubhouse itself is named after sports icon and social justice pioneer Billie Jean King, who supported the project.

“New York Junior Tennis and Learning’s new Cary Leeds Center is rooted in a great cause, promoting the love of tennis and healthy exercise in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in our country,” said King. “NYJTL strives to build champions on and off the court, and I fully expect this new venue to not only foster a deep appreciation of tennis and education in this community but to make a difference in the lives of so many.”

The modern clubhouse was designed and built by Gluck+, which aimed to create a building that was both unobtrusive in the park—one of its two stories is below ground—yet sculptural in nature, said Peter Gluck.

But above all, the function of the center drove the design, which will offer multiple viewing points of the two stadium style tennis courts that will open in 2016.

“It’s a wonderful celebration of tennis,” said Gluck about the project.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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