Sports Grants

Menard’s Gift Will Build New Tennis Center for YMCA

Tom Giffey |

Rendering of the Menard Family YMCA Tennis Center.
Rendering of the Menard Family YMCA Tennis Center.

Auto racing apparently isn’t the only sport that home improvement magnate John Menard has a soft spot for: On Tuesday, the Eau Claire YMCA announced that Menard’s family has made a “multimillion dollar gift” to build a new eight-court tennis center on Menomonie Street just west of the entrance to Carson Park.

“It’s our intent that this new facility will provide the Eau Claire YMCA and residents of the Chippewa Valley with continuing opportunities to play tennis year-round,” said Menard, whose hardware chain includes nearly 300 stores. “To me, tennis is more than just a competitive sport, it’s a wholesome, healthy activity that can be enjoyed by friends and families of all ages.”

The Menard Family YMCA Tennis Center will be built on vacant property the YMCA owns and once considered as the site for a new YMCA. However, the YMCA is now planning to partner with UW-Eau Claire to build a shared activity center on other side of Menomonie Street. YMCA Executive Director Ken Van Es praised the Menard family’s generosity and said the new tennis facility will complement the future activity center, making coordinated activities easier.

The new facility would replace the 43-year-old L.E. Phillips Tennis Center on Moore Street, near Hastings Way. “The current tennis center has served us well with thousands of kids, adults, and families learning to play tennis there,” says Matt Boughton, Eau Claire YMCA tennis director. “But we believe this new facility will take our tennis program to the next level and provide more opportunities for everyone.”

The project will require a final site plan and approval from the Eau Claire City Council. If those hurdles are cleared, construction could began as early as next spring with a completion date of fall 2016.

Menard, an Eau Claire native and UWEC alumnus, is known both for his hardware stores, his status as Wisconsin’s richest man, and his sponsorship of NASCAR racing. (His son Paul is a professional racer.) Menard’s gift to the YMCA is his second major public act of philanthropy in recent years: In 2008, he gave $15 million to the emergency department at Luther Hospital, now known as Mayo Clinic Health System-Eau Claire.