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.