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.