During the storyline to find his illegitimate son, Vincent K. McMahon took the time to help his mom, Vicki Askew. Thanks to his philanthropy, there’s a new tennis center in Ebensburg, Penn., in her honor.
On Saturday, the new Ebensburg Tennis Center opened its doors. The McMahon Family Foundation contributed approximately $2.5 million for the state-of-the-art facility designed by L. Robert Kimball & Associates in honor of Askew, a passionate tennis player and fan.
“It was absolutely a perfect day from the very beginning,” said a cheerful Askew to SLAM! Wrestling about the facility’s grand opening. “The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The turnout was great, and the speeches were not too long. The response of the local people and the people in the surrounding areas was just amazing. It was just overwhelming really, and I just feel so humble and undeserving. I’m filled with love for Vince.
“I know the plaque of me in the lobby will be there when I’m long gone,” continued Askew. “People will think, ‘Who in the world is that lady?’, but it doesn’t matter because we have a nice facility here.”
Askew’s husband, Harold, originally came up with the concept for the new center.
“My husband was concerned because I was driving 22 miles down the snowy, icy road from here to Altoona, Pennsylvania to play. He called my son and said ‘I’m concerned about your mother driving down these icy roads. How nice would it be to have a facility right here in Ebensburg?’ That’s how it all started, so my husband is really responsible.
“In the meantime, I had done a poll of people who would be interested in joining and using the facility if we had one,” continued Askew. “I received a very good response, and we spoke to a person with the county commission. He said that the county would donate the land. The Borough Manager, Daniel Penatzer, also became involved as well as Kimball engineering. I knew that they had built some tennis facilities, and the Kimball’s were friends so I called John Kimball. He was interested of course. John and I flew up to Connecticut to have lunch with Vince and Linda. John made a presentation and my son just said ‘I’ll do it.’ From then on, it grew very slowly. We had two months of such bad weather that they could not do anything. Unfortunately, we were delayed and had hoped to open the center sooner. Once the weather broke, the construction went very fast.”
Located near Lake Rowena, the center contains three outdoor and three indoor tennis courts, which are available to the public through memberships. The outdoor courts replicate that of the U.S. Open (which, ironically, bumps Raw from the USA Network this coming week), and the indoor courts duplicate the playing surface of the Australian Open. About 90 people had already signed up for memberships prior to Saturday’s grand opening.
In June, Toronto native Jamie Taylor was hired to serve as the Director of Tennis for the Ebensburg Tennis Center. Taylor is a certified instructor of the U.S. Professional Tennis Association and previously served as the director of ProCare Health & Fitness in Altoona.
“She (Askew) has been hands on with the whole process,” explained Taylor prior to the center’s grand opening. “She has been making suggestions of how certain things might look good and has also been real supportive of everything.”
The center also offers a variety of tennis programs, ranging from private and group lessons to computerized tennis analysis.
“We’re planning on tennis having a more active role in this community,” added Taylor. “With this facility, we want to encourage the public to take part in all of the tennis related activities we have to offer.”
The Askews relocated to Ebensburg nearly a decade ago after residing in South Florida for 28 years.
“This was Harold’s hometown, and we came back after he had been away 50 years,” explained Askew. “I love the community, and I love a small town. We were just welcomed with open arms, and I love people anyway. I’m comfortable with anybody and everybody.”
Askew also recalled how she became a player and admirer of the sport of tennis: “When I was 50, one of my girlfriends and I decided we would go out and hit a little bit and we liked it. I was still working at the time so I played when I could on holidays. Gradually, I became good enough to play in the Broward County Florida Iola McCoy League. We played A-2 at the time, but that was nine years ago though. I would say I’m now an intermediate player. Of course I can’t move quite as fast and the reactions aren’t quite as fast, but I still love it. I’m going to be supportive of the center even when I can’t play.”
The youthful 87-year-old Askew then quipped, “They presented me with a lifetime membership. I told Jamie when he presented it, ‘You may be sorry, I might live to be a 100.'”
Ryan Nation would like to thank Harold Askew, who served 22 years in the United States Marine Corps, for his assistance with the article.