- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2000

A bratty young tennis player from five years ago was credited by Cora Masters Barry when officials and entrepreneurs ceremoniously topped the $6 million Southeast Tennis and Learning Center Thursday.

The tennis player, Kevin Tindle, now 13 and described as no longer a problem, was at summer camp as about 24 adults autographed a steel roof brace.

The crowd cheered when a crane raised the brace to the top of concrete-block walls at Mississippi Avenue and Wheeler Road SE. The completed building next year will contain tennis facilities, a computer-learning center, classrooms, a media communications center and multipurpose room for community meetings.

Four tennis courts will be covered. Six will be outdoors. Planners anticipate that area, regional and, eventually, national tourneys will be held there.

More importantly, young players from low-income neighborhoods throughout the District will be able to spend at least four hours a week in the computer lab and classrooms, increasing their education and social development through mentoring programs and peer training.

For example, said development consultant Jennifer Coken, youths at the tennis and learning center will learn how to deal with peer pressure and drugs.

Kevin was 8 when Mrs. Barry encountered him on nearby tennis courts five years ago. She couldn't help noticing him because he was throwing tantrums and tennis rackets and "giving the finger," she said Thursday. "I asked the coach why he didn't throw him off the team."

"He said, 'Oh, I couldn't do that.' "

Instantly, Mrs. Barry realized that the coach saw tennis as a wholesome outlet for Kevin, salvation from the open-air drug market where the tennis and learning center is being built today.

Mrs. Barry, then the first lady of the District, created the nonprofit Recreation Wish List Committee. One of the committee's first projects was to obtain assistance and contributions to build the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center.

"It's pro bono," said architect Leo A. Daly, founder of the firm that designed and engineered the tennis and learning facility.

Among the nearly 100 contributors are banks, insurance companies, chambers of commerce, restaurants, computer firms, utility companies, sports organizations and grocery stores.

Items donated by sisters Venus and Serena Williams, who won singles and doubles championships last week at Wimbledon, were auctioned to raise funds for the center.

"The Williams [sisters] winning at Wimbledon tells us what we're doing here," said D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, no relation.

"It gives a framework for our children."

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