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Help Re-Open Chickasaw Park Clay Tennis Courts

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Olmsted Parks Conservancy, working alongside West Louisville Tennis Club, seeks to raise $5,000 to reopen historic clay tennis courts in Chickasaw Park in time for USTA Tournament.

For the past 80 years, Chickasaw Park has been home to the only free and public clay courts in the city – but a lack of clay may prevent the courts from opening this summer.

Olmsted Parks Conservancy is launching a fundraising campaign, with support from USTA’s Southern Kentucky chapter and West Louisville Tennis Club, to raise $5,000 for new clay to help re-open the historic courts in time for the Arthur Lloyd Johnson Memorial Tournament in June. The annual USTA-sanctioned match has been held at Chickasaw Park for the past 15 years – a source of pride for the West Louisville Tennis Club and Chickasaw community.

“We’ve never missed a year.” said Aretha Fuqua, West Louisville Tennis Club President, when asked about the Arthur Lloyd Johnson Memorial Tournament. “This tournament is something our club members look forward to every year – we have 15 players already signed up.”

In 1955, Arthur Lloyd Johnson made history as the first African American to participate in the Louisville Public Parks Tennis League. In 1993 he was inducted into the Kentucky Patrons Tennis Hall of Fame, and in 2003, the Arthur Lloyd Johnson Memorial Tennis Tournament was established in his honor. Since its inception, the tournament has been held at Chickasaw Park annually.

Chickasaw Park has a rich 97-year history of tennis, with the West Louisville Tennis club at its center.  From 1922 to 1954, when the Louisville parks were segregated, Chickasaw Park was the only court in the city open to black players. During that time, Chickasaw Park’s clay and hard courts played host to numerous city and tri-state tournaments, dating back as early as 1939. The West Louisville Tennis Club hosted the Mid-Tac Tennis Tournament in the 1940s, where Althea Gibson, the first African American woman to win Wimbledon, played an exciting exhibition match. In the 1950s and 1960s, John McGill, one of the best tennis players to ever come out of Louisville, played at Chickasaw Park.

“Our focus for 2019 is on making Louisville’s Olmsted Parks safe, accessible and fun spaces for our community,” said Sarah Wolff, Program Director of Community Engagement at Olmsted Parks Conservancy. “Re-opening the clay courts enables the West Louisville Tennis Club to host their children’s program and adult clinics through the summer, continuing Chickasaw Park’s rich legacy of tennis.”

Today, Chickasaw Park is the home court of St. Francis High School and Central High School – Arthur Lloyd Johnson’s alma mater – their first tennis team in over a decade.

Olmsted Parks Conservancy is encouraging Louisville residents to show support by giving a donation through a one-year Olmsted Parks Conservancy membership benefitting Chickasaw Park. The money raised will go to purchase clay to re-open and restore Chickasaw Park’s clay courts – keeping tennis at the heart of Chickasaw Park and the West Louisville community.

“If 100 people donate $50, today, we will have $5,000 for new clay in time for the tournament on June 21.” said Wolff. “But we encourage donors to give whatever they can – there’s no amount too small, or too big.”

Your Donation helps keep tennis at the heart of Chickasaw Park.

To donate, visit Donations are generously being matched by Raise a Racquet for Kentucky Tennis Foundation, up to $1000.


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