A Tale of Two Tennis Courts

Abandoned and converted tennis courts panoramaThis is a tale of two tennis courts in Milwaukee’s Washington Park. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame (see a nice NY Times article about his Midwestern parks here), Washington Park was once home to the Milwaukee County Zoo. The zoo moved decades ago, and at some point early in the years since then, these tennis courts were installed and then abandoned as neighborhood demographics and recreational interests changed.

The tennis court on the left is still largely abandoned, covered with sparkling glass shards and branches and weeds, although at the far end, barricades have been erected to form a low wall creating an arena for “bike polo.” If you enlarge the photo, you can see the graffiti-looking sign saying “Milwaukee Bike Polo” painted onto the metal barricades. I’m not exactly sure what bike polo is, as I’ve never observed anyone actually playing it, but it involves tiny little soccer goal nets set at opposite ends. So apparently it really is polo, played from bikes instead of horses.

(Aside: Milwaukeeans may remember the days back in the 1980s when real polo matches were played on Sundays up on Good Hope Road between 60th and 76th.)Abandoned tennis court

The group of tennis courts on the right side of the panorama have been redone to create a series of small basketball courts, mostly just hoops, I guess. You can tell by the bright morning sunshine that I was driving by really, really early on the day I shot these photos. By late morning and on through the afternoon and evening, these courts were packed with teens and young men.Former tennis courts now basketball courts

So from abandoned, weedy artifact to a vibrant center of public recreation—someone in the parks department was paying attention to the needs of today’s community.

If you build it, and it’s the right thing in the right place at the right time, form and function transcend mere utility. “They” will not just come; they will embrace it and make it truly their own.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. My blog is a space for playing with ideas about creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, and the nature of "insight."
This entry was posted in History, Life, Milwaukee, Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Tale of Two Tennis Courts

  1. I remember the polo on Good Hope!!! That’s a huge soccer field now. It was next to Melody Top Theater!!!

    • OMG! I remember the Melody Top! Okay, here is one thing that so embarrassed me on behalf of my fellow audience members. I went to a performance of Jesus Chrisr Superstar in which Peter Reckell (Bo Brady from TV’s “Days of Our Lives”) played Jesus. At one point near then end, and maybe I’m misremembering that the Melody Top had a revolving stage? But anyway, at the end Jesus is hanging on the cross, and all of a sudden the darkness of the theater was broken with a barrage a flashes as women started taking pictures of Peter Reckell in his loincloth. Poor Peter Reckell, trying to act and then the Crucifixion turns into a beefcake photo op.

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