If You Build It, They Will Come — Iowa Man Recreates Wimbledon

Charles City, Iowa — Freeport News Network — In a story full of dreams that many Freeport residents can relate with, it appears another man, this one in Charles City, Iowa had a dream of his own.

Mark Kuhn has always had a fixation on the fabulous sport of tennis. More than 4,000 miles from the All England Lawn Tennis Club, there’s a place that has all the pageantry of a championship match on Centre Court at Wimbledon. But not just anyone can take a trip to England to play on Tennis’ grand court.

So Kuhn built a replica of the Wimbledon tennis arena on his farm in Charles City, Iowa.

Construction on the project began in the summer of 2002. Although agricultural experts at Iowa State University advised against building the court because of Iowa’s harsh winters, a team of family and friends unloaded several truckloads of sandy soil to support the growth of creeping bentgrass seeds, which produced a surface similar to the look and feel of a putting green.

Kuhn and his two sons, Alex and Mason, handcrafted and painted the 600-plus posts for a British-themed picket fence that encompasses the 78-by-39-foot regulation-size court.

Throughout the process, Kuhn said he heard from curious neighbors, who wondered whether he was opening a hog lot or a horse-riding arena.

“When we built it, no one had a clue what we were doing out here,” he said.

The replica took over a year to build on top of his family farm’s cattle feed lot. After Kuhn learned how to care for the court through an internship with the Wimbledon ground staff, the farmer opened it to the public. Then, tragedy happened.

On July 15, 2016, Alex, a 34-year-old father of two himself and at-large city councilman in Mason City, committed suicide, delivering a profound blow to his family and the region. Father and son spoke for the last time during a cookout on the family farm on July 14.

The next day, Alex shot himself.

Following Alex’s death, Mark Kuhn, then 66, closed the court, which had been open to the public since its inception.

“I was so damn depressed I didn’t know what to do,” he told the Globe Gazette, fighting back tears. “I lost my son.”

A year later, in July 2017 Mark Kuhn reopened the All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club. On the last weekend of June this year, the Kuhns honored their son by renaming their court “Alex J. Kuhn Court of Dreams.” (Iowa’s “Field of Dreams,” a baseball diamond created for the 1989 movie of the same name, is about a two-hour drive southeast in Dyersville.)

The recent two-day invitational in Charles City, which drew about 150 people and a CBS News crew from New York City, showcased the talents of top-ranked juniors from Iowa and Minnesota.  Kuhn said he hoped those who stopped by the farm would leave with motivation to play and with a deeper insight into mental health.

The center court replica, attracts travelers from all over the country. Kuhn says that he has had amateur and professional tennis players visit from 42 different U.S. states.

Kuhn doesn’t charge any money for the visiting players, but visitors are required to have a reservation if they want to use the court.

You can read more about this “court of dreams” here.



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