InnerCity Tennis History | InnerCity Tennis

InnerCity Tennis History

Our primary founder and Chairman, Lachlan Maclachlan of Strathlachlan from Loch Fyne, Scotland, or Lach Reed to most, was a fascinating and complex individual, having grown up in Turkey in a family of educators who went on to found colleges (including Reed College) all over the world. Lachlan was a Yale graduate and then an officer in the Navy who was called to active duty in 1941, only weeks before Pearl Harbor. He later became a naval attaché posted to London working with Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, U.S. Ambassador to the Governments in Exile.  His passion for tennis renewed in 1943 while still in London.  Assigned to Egypt in 1943, Lach worked with the Greek Navy and quickly went on to Yugoslavia to assist the Chetnik nationalists and was later posted to Martinique.  Decommissioned from the Navy in 1945, Lach went on to become an educator, international business man and a dedicated champion of youth development.  

Lach's college sweetheart, Martha Sweatt, became his wife and partner, working with him to develop InnerCity Tennis. Martha’s father, Harold Sweatt, co-founder of Honeywell, was instrumental in developing the early nonprofit, with a very close historical relationship to the company.  In his autobiography Lucky Lach: Becoming an American, Lach waxed quite poetic about his enduring love for Martha – his life’s “most important development.”  Originally set to date another girl, he fell hard for Martha.  After their first date, he cut out ads from the New York Times and pasted them onto a huge roll of paper saying she was a “great gal.”  Martha and Lach married on September 3, 1942 and went on to spend a full life together with six children.

In 1952, Lachlan Reed, Harold Sweatt, Martha Sweatt Reed, Wheelock Whitney, Sewell Andrews, George Crosby, Robert DeHaven, Jack Dow, John Harrison, George Hoke, Goodrich Lowry, George Mairs, Joe Masek, Donald McNeely, George Pillsbury, George Weed, Donald Paul, Dr. Jack Pfister, William Rentschler, Justin Smith, Lucian Strong and G. Cullen Thomas founded the Northwest Tennis Patrons, with a goal of empowering inner city youth with the many opportunities afforded them through the lifelong sport of tennis.  

Initially, the Patrons enlisted the support of volunteer coaches to teach tennis in Minneapolis Parks through the summer season. That model endured from the early 1950’s through to today, as ICT still delivers tennis instruction in 23 Minneapolis Parks, employing youth coaches who themselves learned tennis in our Park programs. Nick Pappas, President of the USTA in 1970, launched the first summer tennis program in Windsor Park. That same year, Jack Thommen of Minneapolis Community Education granted funds to ICT to grow programming. We estimate that over the last six decades, at least 75,000 children have grown up participating in ICT programs. Hundreds of Board members and volunteers have made ICT what it is today, including beloved Minneapolis civil rights leader, Matt Little.

Northwest Tennis Patrons became Minneapolis Urban Tennis in the 1980’s and subsequently, St. Paul Urban Tennis was founded, later spinning off into its own nonprofit organization. In 1994, Northwest Tennis Patrons became InnerCity Tennis Foundation. Another “spin-off” was founded by Lach and Martha Reed in Palm Beach, Florida - Palm Beach Area Tennis Patrons – and today known as TEAM First (Tennis Education and Mentoring First), also a member of National Junior Tennis and Learning.

Mention must be made of Karen McGlynn, who was Lach Reed's right hand woman, staff and former board member. Karen not only took meticulous notes of board meetings throughout the decades and therefore established the history of InnerCity Tennis, she consistently delivered sage direction to ICT programs. Karen is one of those remarkable individuals who has contributed to our unique organization.

In the late 1990’s Peter Benson of the world-renowned Search Institute was our Board Chair and worked closely with Board and staff to develop our Kidspeed® program within the framework of Search’s groundbreaking work on the 40 Developmental Assets. We started delivering the Kidspeed program in Head Start programs around 2000 and still do today – at Head Start McKnight in south Minneapolis and Head Start Fraser in North Minneapolis, as well as on-site at our Super Saturday program.  

The Board of InnerCity Tennis purchased Nicollet Tennis Center from Jack Johnson in 2000 as a home base of operations. Now called the Reed Sweatt Family Tennis Center, our revolving doors turn to admit thousands of players from age three to 96. Buoyed by a strong partnership with the Senior Tennis Players Club, founded by the legendary Jack Dow, ICT welcomes hundreds of senior players all day long until youth crowd the courts after school and permanent court time and league players in the evening. 

Reed Sweatt Tennis Facility

Tennis has a long and illustrious history at 40th and Nicollet. The first 12 courts and bleachers were installed in 1946 – 1950 as the Nicollet Tennis Center, managed by Frank Bruce. In 1960, the West High tennis coach lined his team up at the old Nicollet hitting wall and after watching the players, named star player John Ribnick Captain and Number One singles player. John is Permanent Court Time and League Manager today at InnerCity Tennis. John is originator of the “Ribnick” method of league scoring and rules of play that we use today.  Mary Baker led the Nicollet Junior Wightman Cup squad to the State Championships in 1959.  Mary has been working at the Center since the 1970’s and is today the Women’s Daytime League Coordinator, and keeper of the secret formula for “Nicollet Nectar” – she will never tell!

Nicollet Tennis Center served as the host site for the National Public Parks Tournament in 1953 and 1961. In the late 1950’s a Davis Cup qualifying match between Australia and Chile was played here. Many will testify to the fact that Nicollet Tennis Center was the hub of tennis activity for the best players in the Twin Cities for many years. 

Jack JohnsonThe trajectory of play took a turn in 1973, when, in an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit, Jack Johnson secured agreement from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to install an air structure to cover the courts and make them indoor, year-round opportunities for play. Many might have wondered if year-round tennis could really take off in Minneapolis, but Jack Johnson’s Nicollet Tennis Center, affectionately known even today as “Nicollet” turned heads in the tennis community. Jack’s Nicollet Tennis Center was bustling until 2000, when InnerCity Tennis Foundation purchased the business, leasing the courts and land from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.  

In honor of the founders of InnerCity Tennis, Lachlan Reed, Harold Sweatt and Martha Sweatt Reed, the tennis facility was re-named the Reed Sweatt Family Tennis Center.  With ICT’s mission of youth development and empowerment, the concept of family has been and will always be important to our tennis identity. Although Martha and Lachlan Reed are now deceased, InnerCity Tennis honors their legacy by retaining the name Reed Sweatt.