May 08, 2024

Hundreds Gather to Celebrate Groundbreaking for Lulu’s Place, A Historic $150M Philanthropic Investment in L.A. Youth

LOS ANGELES (May 8, 2024)—One of the largest ever philanthropic investments for the children of Los Angeles took a giant step forward today with the official groundbreaking of Lulu’s Place, a planned $150-million state-of-the-art athletic and educational complex with a mission to enrich the lives of local and underserved students and bringing value to the surrounding community. 

Situated directly north of Los Angeles International Airport, Lulu’s Place will activate 31 acres of long vacant land with world-class sports and recreation facilities open to the public, as well as high-quality academic, athletic and wellness programs offered for free or at low-cost to area youth. The facilities will include tennis courts, soccer fields, playground areas, walking paths, and a dog park. 

The ambitious project honors the legacy of the late Carol “Lulu” Kimmelman, a member of the 1983 national champion USC women’s tennis team and later a LAUSD teacher at Raymond Avenue Elementary School in South Los Angeles. Carol was a strong advocate for equity in youth sports and educational opportunities. 

“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 lead donor Doug Kimmelman who is spearheading the project. “Thanks to the support of Mayor Bass, City, County and community leaders, as well as our many philanthropic partners, this ambitious vision that our family dreamed up years ago is now becoming a reality.” 

The project, funded entirely by philanthropic donations, represents an unprecedented collaboration among leading national nonprofits, including the United States Tennis Association and its charitable arm, the USTA Foundation, TGR Foundation, and several other prominent institutions and foundations. LA World Airports leased the property where the athletic facilities are being built to Lulu’s Place for a period of 50 years. 

“All young people deserve access to enriching sports programs and educational opportunities,’’ said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. “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 adjacent to LAX that will serve Angelenos for decades to come. We remain a committed partner in helping honor Lulu Kimmelman’s memory by increasing recreational opportunities for young people.” 

Major donors other than the Kimmelman Family Foundation include Jersey Mike’s, USTA, USTA 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 Company. 

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 High School campus. “Lulu’s Place is a huge ‘win’ for the students who attend school in our community, including our own students, and will be a catalyst for positive change,” said Archdiocese of Los Angeles Senior Director and Superintendent of Catholic Schools Paul Escala. “We are blessed to be able to play a key role in bringing this incredible opportunity to the community and the children.” 

The roster of high-profile partners attests to the sweeping vision of Lulu’s Place to create opportunities for students’ growth and success, while enriching the quality of life for all area residents. 

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

TGR Foundation is expanding access to students from under-resourced communities in Los Angeles through the TGR Learning Lab, which provides innovative STEAM educational enrichment, health and well-being programs, and career and college readiness opportunities. “It’s important for us to be in L.A. because it’s where we started,” said Tiger Woods, founder of TGR Foundation. “To create a facility that provides STEAM education, but also offers different athletic endeavors and opportunities for kids to learn and grow is a perfect fit.” 

Programs at Lulu’s Place are expected to serve thousands of under-resourced students each year. Located along Westchester Parkway near LAX, the center is within walking distance of more than a dozen K-12 schools, many of which receive Title 1 funding and serve low-income students, foster care youth, non-native English speakers and youth who have experienced trauma at home. 

Additional core partners include college-preparatory learning platform Winward Academy along with Cedars-Sinai and Providence, which will provide athletic healthcare and mental health services, and introduce students to healthcare professions, such as sports medicine. 

Dr. Jennifer Winward, founder and lead instructor of Winward Academy, considered Lulu Kimmelman 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. 

Award-winning L.A.-based architecture and design firm RIOS designed the project to be a safe and welcoming space for youth and families. The site includes inviting indoor and outdoor areas for community gathering and youth programs, as well as lush landscaping and green spaces. Key design features include a light-filled Welcome Center with spaces for program offices and areas for athletic training and mentoring programs. Additional buildings will provide areas dedicated to healthcare services for student-athletes and training. Construction is expected to take two years. 

Local students from Loyola Village Fine and Performing Arts Magnet opened the groundbreaking ceremony by singing the national anthem accompanied by student percussionists playing West African drums. Public officials who spoke included Mayor Bass, City Councilmember Traci Park, County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin, John Ackerman, CEO of Los Angeles World Airports, which owns the land where Lulu’s Place will be developed, along with Board of Airport Commissioners (BOAC) President Karim Webb. 

“This is a once-in-a-generation investment toward creating inter-generational change,” Kimmelman said. “Our goal is for Lulu’s Place to become a national model for making sports and education more equitable for youth.”