Liberty University soon will own The Sports Racket, a Lynchburg tennis facility off Wiggington Road, thanks to a donation from Madison Heights resident Sherwin Cook.
The Sports Racket was purchased by Cook on Jan. 31 for a little more than $1 million, according to city records. Cook transferred management of the property to Liberty this month, and plans to complete the donation by year’s end.
“It’s not that I had to give it to Liberty,” said Cook, 86, a member of LU’s Board of Trustees. “I thought that they are very worthy of it and that they will make great use of it in the community in the years ahead.”
The 18-acre property includes five indoor tennis courts, five racquetball courts, five outdoor tennis courts and a gym.
Starting this week, Liberty students will have free after-hours access to the facility, said Bryan Evans, acting manager of The Sports Racket and LU’s assistant director of auxiliary services. For existing customers, current operating hours, policies and fees will stay the same, Evans said.
“We plan on making some major improvements to the facility for the clientele that is currently there,” Evans said. “We want them to still enjoy and love the place and know that we’re there for them.”
The Sports Racket was established in 1976 under the name of Central Va. Indoor Tennis. The previous owners ran The Sports Racket for about 10 years before selling it to Cook.
This is Cook’s second tennis-related donation to Liberty in just a few months. In November, he provided the lead gift for the Cook Tennis Center, which will house a 2,500-square-foot operations center for Liberty’s men’s and women’s tennis programs.
Cook picked up tennis at age 60 and is a former member of The Sports Racket. Though he was tempted to run the facility himself, he decided to donate the property to Liberty instead.
“I’m 86 years old and I don’t think that I could have lasted very long,” Cook said.
Though Liberty was established too late for Cook to attend college there, he said he’s been a longtime supporter of the school.
“I have a lot of respect for Liberty and the people who have operated it over the years,” Cook said. “I just want to support it.”