A by-invitation-only luncheon today with some of the business community's most prominent leaders raised $200,000 toward building a $9.8 million tennis facility on land that was formerly part of the Robert Taylor Homes.
"We raised the money we needed to break ground,"Kamau Murray, executive director of the foundation that runs the facility, told me after the luncheon. "The goal is to bring more tournaments and events to the city so our kids can gain a ranking. You can't go for a scholarship to college without that."
Richard Price, chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial, gathered friends and clients for the event at his company's Clark Street office to hear Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others talk about how the tennis center will transform Chicago. Mesirow donated $50,000 toward the new facility.
The 112,000-square-foot facility at 54th and State streets will be home to 10 tennis courts, a fitness center, a running track and classrooms.
Among the attendees was Kimbra Walter, who with her husband, Mark Walter, CEO of Guggenheim Partners, donated $500,000 toward building the facility. Guggenheim Partners donated an additional $150,000.
During the luncheon, the mayor talked about how each part of Chicago is important to the viability of the entire city. His comments, and the attendance of tennis upstart Taylor Townsend, who played at XS' current facility on 47th Street, helped motivate the crowd.
“We were at $1.7 million when the mayor came in and we're now at $1.9 million. That's what we needed to get the project started," Murray said. The city already has donated $2.9 million in tax increment financing.
Donors who stepped up with commitments of $50,000 or more included Magellan President Bob Arthur; Wolverine Trading Partner Rob Bellick; Flexpoint Ford CEO Don Edwards; Atlantic Trading Partner Matt Joyce; and Todd Smith of Power Rogers & Smith law firm.
School of the Art Institute CEO Walter Massey also donated to the tennis center and drew a laugh at the luncheon.
"I've played at XS. We need a new one," he said. Massey, who also sits on the board of McDonald's, is an avid tennis player.
Mahalia Hines attended as well. She's a Chicago Board of Education member and friend of Mesirow executive Les Coney, who helped organize the event. She's also mom to rapper Common.
I hear Hines was texting with tennis star Serena Williams during the luncheon, sharing news of all the donations.
Tennis great Billie Jean King has been —she has a home here and gave $50,000 toward the fundraising effort.
Others who donated included Robbie Robinson, a principal at BDT Capital Partners and vice chair of After School Matters; Penny Pritzker and her husband, Brian Traubert; Eric Henschel, a partner at Wolverine Trading; Shawn Donnelley, a philanthropy consultant; restaurateur Marc Brooks; and Jim Gordon of Edgewater Funds.