San Francisco's Golden Gate Park tennis center gets renovation

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- For former tennis star Peanut Louie Harper, the Tennis Center at Golden Gate Park was a home away from home and the launching pad for her pro career.

"My mom would just drop us off, and we'd play tennis all day long 365 days a year," remembers Louie Harper.

While she looks back wistfully at those early days, Louie Harper says she's excited by the transformation about to take place at the century old courts.

It's a $27 million makeover that includes a huge new clubhouse, garden terraces, and for the first time ever, lighted courts. A major transition for a center that's stood at the same site since the 1890's, and hosted greats from Rosie Casals to Billie Jean King.

But Rec and Park director Phil Ginsburg says the aging facilities are showing their wear.

"It's time, it's time to think about the next generation and the next century," says Ginsburg, who also points out that parts of the facility are not ADA compliant.

But at a party inside the old clubhouse, some long-time members expressed mixed feelings about the project, which they say will close the courts for more than a year and potential change their neighborhood character.

"The city could have a great job renovating these courts. Would have taken roughly two to three months. We wouldn't have lost a court. We don't need this beautiful facility. This is done by the big wealthy people in San Francisco," says player John Melvin.

Supporters raised much of the costs through private donations. And they promise the new center will be welcoming home for everyone from beginners to top tournament stars.

"And when it reopens everybody who plays today will be welcomed back. And they're going to have a tennis center that's more accessible and will be in many respects more enjoyable." says Ginsubrg.

Peanut Louie Harper sees the project as paying forward the same magic she enjoyed as a child.

"We all feel so fortunate as kids to have had this place to come together and be part of this big family. And I think one thing we would wish for kids today is to have that too," she said.
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