Kansas Athletics buys Lawrence's First Serve Tennis Center

$3.1M deal gives permanent home to women’s team

Video

Kansas Athletics purchases First Serve Tennis Center

Video by Mark Fagan

The Kansas University women’s tennis team has a place to call its own, now that Kansas Athletics Inc. has paid $3.1 million to acquire First Serve Tennis Center from owner Mike Elwell.

The team has called the center home since 2006, when Kansas Athletics inked a contract that allowed the Jayhawks to stop traveling to Topeka and the Kansas City area for practices and “home” matches.

Now the Jayhawks own their five indoor courts, six outdoor courts, 5.5 acres of land and a building at 5200 Clinton Parkway that includes a locker room, one previously financed by Kansas Athletics.

As part of the deal that closed Monday afternoon, Elwell also agreed to provide Kansas Athletics with membership information for the club’s 150 members.

“Life at First Serve will continue, and we will make this transition as smooth as possible,” Athletics Director Lew Perkins said, in a statement. “All of your classes, court time, leagues, etc., will continue as scheduled and we look forward to the sustained growth of the club.”

Kansas Athletics formed a limited-liability corporation, Jayhawk Tennis Facility LLC, to own the club, which will remain on the city’s tax rolls, Elwell said. Elwell estimated First Serve’s annual property-tax bill at nearly $50,000.

First Serve brought in nearly $500,000 a year in revenues, from memberships, lessons, contractual payments from Kansas Athletics and other miscellaneous fees, such as the Lawrence Home Builders Association’s annual rental of the place for its three-day Lawrence Home Show, which ended Sunday.

The Home Builders will be able to use the center for next year’s show, too, but after that the arrangement will be a matter of discussion and contractual renegotiation.

“This facility is perfect for us,” said Bobbie Flory, the association’s executive director. “I’m sure we’ll soon be visiting with our friends at KU.”

Elwell said he sold the center after losing more than $5,000 a month on its operations since opening four years ago — losses that became unsustainable following his divorce two months ago.

Comments

KEITHMILES05

How about bringing back the mens program?

9 years, 2 months ago

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langes0910

My question is why not building one on or much closer to our campus? Commuting back and forth between these two places, which are 10 mins apart, just doesn't sound like the best plan to me. Thinking about the possibility of car accidents scares me. Honestly, if I were a recruit, I would not go play for KU because of this concern and inconvenience. I hope this is just a temporary plan.

9 years, 2 months ago

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kureader

agree about bringing back men's tennis ... at one time, KU had a very good men's team. I'm sure that'll happen.
As for the location, Clinton parkway is closer than Topeka or KC. Of course the location isn't perfect, but it's probably the best choice right now. I wouldn't call driving 10 minutes to practice a commute. And, their locker room is at the tennis facility. Seems convenient enough. For decades, on Fridays or on weeks with bad weather, KU's football team dressed in Allen Field House, drove to Memorial Stadium for practice, and returned to the field house for showers after practice. 4 or 5 guys in shoulderpads, in a small car AFTER practice, returning to the field house. That was a commute ... a smelly commute.

9 years, 2 months ago

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phogthedog

OMG...driving 10 minutes to practice. I'm sure that the Lady Jayhawks know how to drive. Maybe we should dig a channel for a river to parallel Naismith drive for the rowing team.

9 years, 2 months ago

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jayhawkinATL

I agree...why haven't we considered an ON-CAMPUS tennis complex as part of our strategic plan??? If this is a long-term solution, I don't see how it could possibly help lure top-notch recruits. Then again, maybe it's not in Lew's plans to have a top-notch tennis program, but more so just to maintain compliance with title IX.

9 years, 2 months ago

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rockchalkAZ

we spend millions on a rowing house and buying a tennis facility, there is no more men's tennis, men's swimming, men's soccer... take your pick. obviously, all lew cares about is maintaining compliance with title IX. as long as he has his precious football and basketball (don't get me wrong, i love those two sports) he doesn't give a sh*t about developing the other sports into top notch programs, let alone funding some men's programs.

9 years, 2 months ago

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areyouserious

you people are clueless. The Athletics Dept bought a distressed property that they can add value to and continue to generate revenue on. They still get all the revenue streams that were in place and they no longer have to pay rent to use the facility. Its a no brainer business decision, and I am sure at $3.1 million that is well below the true value of the facility and revenue streams. Do you realize what it would cost to build a brand new facility? Especially for a sport that generates little to no revenue. I understand the argument for the rowing team building a new facility but there was no other option. This makes perfect sense if the long term plans of the KUAD is to continue to have a tennis program.

9 years, 2 months ago

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langes0910

If you were a recruit would you sign up for this, honestly? Yes it is a marketing strategy but as a alumnus I am more concerned about the program and players. I suddenly realized, yesterday, why we have had many players from abroad. I see softball, baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and swimming teams walking to practice, but I have to drive to mine? Although it generates no revenue for the Athletic Department, it is still an integral part of the Jayhawk family. They too bleed crimson and blue.

9 years, 2 months ago

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Michael Leiker

Does this place still have the old plastic floor inside of it?

9 years, 2 months ago

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Waylon Cook

Smart move by Lew as several pointed out it takes alot more to build than buy.

9 years, 2 months ago

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