Lulu's Place will be L.A.'s latest investment in youth sports and education

Doug Kimmelman and his children dig their shovels into the dirt at the May 8 groundbreaking.
Doug Kimmelman and his children dig their shovels into the dirt at the May 8 groundbreaking for Lulu's Place, a $150-million athletic and educational complex for the youth of Los Angeles. (Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

On May 8, one of the largest philanthropic investments ever for the youth of Los Angeles broke ground just north of LAX and the $150-million athletic and educational complex will be known as “Lulu’s Place” in memory of Carol Richardson Kimmelman, who was passionate about tennis, teaching and Southern California.

Located at the intersection of 92nd Street and Falmouth Avenue, next door to St. Bernard High, Lulu’s Place will be built on 31 acres of long vacant land with public sports and recreational facilities, including tennis, basketball and sand volleyball courts, full-length soccer fields, playgrounds, walking paths and a dog park. Construction is estimated to last two years.

“My four children and I are deeply committed to honoring Lulu’s legacy and her passionate belief in the power of tennis and other sports to impart valuable life skills that are essential for personal growth and academic success,” said Lulu’s husband and leading donor Doug Kimmelman, who was joined at the groundbreaking by his three oldest children, Annie, Robert and Tommy, who all live in Florida. “This is a once-in-a-generation investment toward creating inter-generational change. Our goal is for Lulu's Place to become a national model for making sports and education more equitable for youth.”

A sign on a vacant 31-acre lot announces the development of Lulu's Place.
A sign on a vacant 31-acre lot announces the development of Lulu's Place. (Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Known by family and friends as “Lulu,” Carol Kimmelman was a native of Riverside and graduated from Polytechnic High before joining the USC tennis team and leading the Trojans to a national championship in 1983. She became an LAUSD teacher at Raymond Avenue Elementary in South Los Angeles and was a strong advocate for equity in youth sports and educational opportunities.

She continued playing competitive tennis, both with her New Jersey club and, more recently, in La Jolla. An active USTA board member, she won the New Jersey State Mixed Platform Tennis Championship in 2009, and while undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer she founded her own spin cycle studio called POE (Peace on Earth). She died in 2017 at 53.

“She loved L.A., she loved those students she taught and she loved leading an active, healthy lifestyle,” said Doug, an investment banker who met his future wife in 1989. “Thanks to the support of our many philanthropic partners, this ambitious vision that our family dreamed up years ago is now becoming a reality.”

Besides the Kimmelman Family Foundation, donors include Jersey Mike’s, the United States Tennis Foundation, Karsh Family Foundation, Cedars-Sinai, Providence, TGR Foundation, Ballmer Group, Alfred E. Mann Charities, The Rose Hills Foundation, Hirsch Family Foundation, Joseph Drown Foundation, LA84 Foundation, and The Walt Disney Co. Los Angeles World Airports has leased the property where the athletic facilities are being built to Lulu’s Place for a span of 50 years.

"All young people deserve access to enriching sports programs and educational opportunities,’’ said L.A. Mayor Karen Bass, who spoke at the groundbreaking along with city councilwoman Traci Park, county supervisor Holly Mitchell (a classmate of Lulu’s at Riverside Poly), LAUSD board member Nick Melvoin, L.A. World Airports chief executive John Ackerman, Board of Airport Commissioners president Karim Webb, USTA chief executive Lew Sherr and Tiger Woods Foundation chief executive Cyndi Court. “The city is proud to be a partner in supporting the development of Lulu's Place. Our collaboration is breathing new life into a site that will serve Angelenos for decades.”

Mayor Karen Bass addresses the audience at the Lulu's Place groundbreaking ceremony on May 8.
Mayor Karen Bass addresses the audience at the Lulu's Place groundbreaking ceremony on May 8. (Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Thanks to a partnership with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Lulu’s Place also is planning to incorporate a TGR Learning Lab on the adjacent St. Bernard campus.

“This is a huge win for students in our community and will be a catalyst for positive change,” said Paul Escala, Archdiocese of Los Angeles senior director and superintendent of Catholic schools. “We’re blessed to be able to play a key role in bringing this incredible opportunity to the community and the children.”

Dr. Jennifer Winward, founder and lead instructor of Winward Academy, an award-winning San Diego-based online tutoring platform, considered Lulu a mentor and friend.

“From the moment Doug and his children told me about this project I was proud to embrace this vision, roll up my sleeves, and get to work developing special programs for Lulu’s Place that introduce students to college and career opportunities that they may have never known existed,” she said.

Students from nearby Loyola Village Fine and Performing Arts Magnet opened the groundbreaking ceremony by singing the national anthem, accompanied by student percussionists playing West African drums.

“This is the most significant undertaking by the USTA on the entire West Coast to bring high-quality tennis and academic programs together,” Sherr said. "This project will not only inspire a new generation to pick up a tennis racket, it will be a community hub for kids to access the resources they need to succeed in life."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.