Serving Up the Past and the Future at Orange Lawn

from NYTs

Bruce Schonbraun is an avid collector of tennis memorabilia. He owns hundreds of antique rackets and old tournament programs. Recently, he added to his collection an entire tennis club, the faded gem Orange Lawn, once one of the most prominent sites on the international tennis tour.

The club, which sits on a hill just 20 miles west of Manhattan, is not a memento to admire on a shelf. For Schonbraun, it is a multimillion-dollar reclamation project that he wants to use to revitalize grass-court tennis in the Eastern United States.

Schonbraun is a tennis-obsessed real estate developer who grew up hitting balls over chain-link nets on the public courts of Jersey City. He heads a group that recently purchased the 138-year-old Orange Lawn Tennis Club in an ambitious plan to restore it to its former glory.

“This is a passion play,” he said. “It’s about restoring one of the finest tennis clubs in the country to its old grandeur, and we hope to bring in a tournament sooner rather than later.”

That won’t be easy, given that club memberships of the sort Orange Lawn offers have been trending downward and pro tennis tours have become much more internationally focused than they were in Orange Lawn’s heyday. A small amateur tournament might be a better fit.

More here.

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4 Responses to Serving Up the Past and the Future at Orange Lawn

  1. Moniqua Prince April 27, 2018 at 8:35 pm #

    Honestly, I am not sure what attracted me to this article. Though I am not displeased that I read it. I never knew that a such thing as grass-court tennis existed. If anything my mind is a little blown. How would one even play grass-court tennis? Does it have the same rules as regular tennis? Does the ball bounce as it does on a concrete platform? Do the players even hit the ball to the ground? Why is it on grass? This article has caused me to ask many questions that I had not originally thought that I would ask or want to know. The topic and idea of grass-court tennis has intrigued me.
    Another question that comes to mind is why did they switch from grass to clay? What reason did they have to do this? Was it because the ball hit the clay better than the grass? Meaning: Did it bounce higher or better on clay rather than grass?
    How does Bruce Schonbraun plan to get people to attend his newly acquired tennis court? Especially as memberships have decreased over time due to others choosing to spend their time elsewhere. How does Bruce plan to incentivize people to attend his club other than with the one pro that he has paid to give lessons and play on the fields? In all honesty, I am curious to see what happens with this club. I am also intrigued to watch a real live battle of tennis on grass rather than clay or concrete. I want to see how it is played and what happens to the ball as it is hit from side to side. This article left me unsatisfied because it left me with so many questions. I will look forward to this plan being executed, and maybe one day I will get to see a match of grass-court tennis played.
    In the article there is also talk about the court, its location and what it looks like. I wonder if it is really worth all the money on repairs for this club. Especially if there is no guarantee that anyone will attend the club or acquire a membership for the club. On top of that the article mentions how tennis is more targeted internationally now-a-days rather than nationally. Which again begs the questions: Is it worth it to continue with this endeavor whether one is a tennis fanatic or not?

  2. Zachary Corby April 30, 2018 at 6:50 pm #

    I honestly had no idea what this article was about before I clicked on it but it was actually really interesting to me. Little did I know that right in a place that I call home was such an old piece of sports history. Personally, I am not a huge tennis fan, but I am a huge sports fan so it was really cool to find out that the Orange Lawn hosted a tournament as big as the U.S Open back in the day. It was also really cool that the Orange Lawn is one of the few remaining grass courts in the US, and I think it is awesome that the history and rarity of the grass court is being preserved in its renovation, because not a lot of people would do that. Especially given the fact that the country club is losing a significant amount of money and memberships are down, most people would opt for the cheaper and less painful option of putting in clay courts. Maintenance costs to upkeep a grass court are much higher so it has to be taken over by someone who is really concerned with preserving history rather than just profits.
    The problem I see though is not a lot of people are going to be interested in coming to join a big tournament like Schonbraun is trying to accomplish. I mean tennis is a dying sport I general, and I do not think that a lot of the people who live in the Oranges now are really into tennis, evident by the declining membership. Maybe it is just because the country club is really old and dainty, and maybe more people would come out if a huge tournament was held there. I just do not see a lot of support especially given the challenges of getting the court ready for a major tournament like that. An old timers tournament may work because the retired players may be interested in coming back to play for fun on such a historic court. Aside from the recruitment of players, there are a lot of challenges that come from space. The article states that the club is outdated and small, which would pose problems if enough people actually were to show up to such a tournament.
    Ultimately, I do not think country clubs are ever going to be successful anymore, except for in really upscale areas. More and more people are spending more times with their families, or they choose to utilize new technology which has helped to make country clubs very outdated. Country clubs were a good place to socialize with a lot of friends, but with technology you are able to do that in the comfort of your home. Fees are also ridiculously high for an economy that has seen wages stay fairly stagnant. More families have to live on two incomes now so it is making it harder to attract middle class people to use a great portion of their money on country clubs, especially when there are cheaper options. I seriously doubt the success of the renovation simply because I do not think there will be a lot of new members in the Orange Lawn, for the reasons I stated. Given that the grass court requires more maintenance than most country clubs the fees at Orange Lawn will be much higher, and the renovations certainly will not help that bill. Like I said I think the ideas are great, I just question how much success this will actually have.

  3. Antonio Chirichiello May 4, 2018 at 8:43 pm #

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  4. CA June 3, 2018 at 3:08 pm #

    It is good to know that a tennis court with such good memories of historic moments will be purchased by someone who is willing to restore it to what it used to be. Tennis is a good sport and there are so many people who like this game and since Orange Lawn used to be a place where seasoned tennis players used to play tennis, Mr. Schonbraun’s vision of renovating and returning this tennis club to its former glory is certainly visionary. It is also interesting to note that this tennis club used to be a grass court considering grass courts are no longer as common as they used to be. I think there is a little bit of cushioning from a grass court as compared to a hard court and to have this option will be such a good addition. The game of tennis is very interesting and a form of good exercise for those who like this game. There are a lot of world class players and some up and coming ones who people would like to pay to watch them play. I think Mr. Schonbraun saw Orange Lawn as a good business venture and that is why he purchased it. Most ages can play tennis and this place will be a good resource for them. It is also not gender biased. The pictures in the article shows that this is actually still in a very good condition. The history that is associated with Orange Lawn makes it an attraction that once renovated and opened to the public would certainly gain a lot of members. Bringing lawn tennis back to the lawn is such a great idea and Orange Lawn will probably do just that!

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