“I’m an avid collector of tennis memorabilia,” remarked Bruce Schonbraun.
And the Orange Lawn Tennis Club may be the biggest piece in Schonbraun’s growing collection. He manages the group that just bought the second oldest tennis club in America and one of only a handful still with grass courts.
He said, “For us, it was looking at this historic club, and it’s a wow.”
A “wow” when you walk through the clubhouse and gaze at the trophy case and the long list of names who played and won here at the Mutual Benefit Life Open, the forerunner to the U.S. Open: Bobby Riggs, Arthur Ashe, Rod Laver, and in other tournaments Chris Evert and many others. But when pro tennis went to clay courts, major tournaments went elsewhere and Orange Lawn met its decline. Folks still played there, still said their “I do’s” there, but the club never rivaled its heyday.
Schonbraun says his group is investing millions of dollars to renovate the locker room, reconfigure the pool area, rebuild the paddle courts, add a restaurant, and overall to restore Orange Lawn to its glory, and then some. He says it’s working. Membership is increasing.
Schonbraun said, “This is a way beyond a tennis club. This really is a social club.”
Orange Lawn has ten clay courts and ten grass courts. The grass courts are legendary, but General Manager Eric Fromm says they represent an undeniable reality about the sport and about this club.
Fromm elaborated, “You’ve got Wimbledon, you’ve got warm up tournaments to Wimbledon. The grass court championships of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. So, there are some tournaments and a lot of people love playing on the court. I don’t think it’s the future of the game in terms of competitive tennis.”
But, Orange Lawn still thinks its grass courts are a draw.
“We intend to bring back some kind of major grass court event. Not like the major tournaments that had been held in the past which were large professional tournaments, but it might be a legends tournament,” Schonbraun explained.
Back in the day when folks came to watch the tennis greats play on this grass court, there was the press box. There was public and VIP seating. Orange Lawn says all of those areas will be restored.
Fromm said, “The buzz is out there in the community that it’s going to go through a resurgence and people are excited about it.”
“This whole thing is very exciting,” said Schonbraun.
The excitement here will go to another level as Orange Lawn prepares to serve a restored club to the public on Memorial Day weekend.