To grow a program, to honor a coach

Anonymous $3.2 million gift to fund an 8-court tennis complex named for Coach Rick McClure

By Rita Buettner

When Loyola’s assistant vice president and director of athletics, Jim Paquette, stopped by to meet with the men’s and women’s tennis teams, he had news.

Loyola was receiving an anonymous gift—$3.2 million—to build a new tennis facility at the Ridley Athletic Complex.

“We’ve always talked about how it would be awesome to get new courts or add to the ones we have now,” said Olivia Ott, ’15, a tennis player and physics major from Columbus, Ohio. “To know there would be a brand-new facility, it was almost like a dream.”

That dream will come true for the men’s and women’s tennis players when the eight-court complex opens in the spring.

And, as an additional surprise, the complex will be named for the team’s head coach, Rick McClure, who has coached tennis at Loyola since 1979 and is a member of the Loyola Hall of Fame.

Rick McClure (left) is entering his 36th season as coach and mentor of Loyola University Maryland's men's and women's tennis teams.

“Of all people, he’s deserving of it, and he’s a big reason why I came here,” said Greg Olesnycky, ’16, a tennis player and finance major from Florham Park, N.J. “What makes him special is his commitment toward each and every person on and off the court.”

“It couldn’t have happened to a better person,” Ott said. “When you think of Loyola tennis, you couldn’t think of anyone else. He’s the face of Loyola tennis.”

McClure, who has coached more than 1,100 matches in his 35 seasons at Loyola, notching nearly 700 wins, was inducted into the Loyola Hall of Fame in 2003.

“I’m excited for the kids, the student-athletes. They’re the ones who will benefit and they’ll remember this when they leave Loyola,” McClure said. “It will help tremendously with recruiting. When the kids come to campus, they say, ‘I want to see your tennis complex,’ and we’ve never had one. And to be able to play with the lights also extends the matches. It just adds a different element to the overall experience.”

The gift covers the cost of the eight courts with lights, a locker room facility, spectator seating, and a parking lot.

“This generous, private support affords us the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to Loyola’s student-athletes and celebrate the outstanding career of Coach McClure,” said Paquette. “The quality and caliber of Patriot League tennis are exceptional, and our new facility will ensure Loyola remains competitive by providing a first-class experience for Greyhounds tennis teams and fans.”

The gift means so much to alumni of the tennis program, as well, McClure said. “I’m happiest for the alumni who had to make the walk to Notre Dame to play their matches each and every time. I’ve received many letters from those alumni.”

Matches are currently held on the four Butler Courts and four courts on the neighboring campus of Notre Dame of Maryland University. All matches will be held at the tennis complex once it opens, and practice times will no longer need to be staggered due to space constraints.

“We’ll be able to cheer on everyone at once, and not be texting to say, ‘How’s so-and-so doing over there?’” Ott said.

Loyola broke ground on the facility in July 2014.

The new, lighted complex will expand the options for scheduling matches, reducing missed classes for student athletes. The tennis complex will also give Loyola the ability to host Patriot League Championships and other tournaments.

“Now we will play right next to the soccer and lacrosse people. It puts us on another level,” Olesnycky said. “When I come back five, 10 years down the road, I am certain that the team will be much better. The facility will attract better tennis players.”

Whiting-Turner, which built the Ridley Athletic Complex, where the lacrosse and soccer teams compete, broke ground on the facility in July.

The goal is to complete the tennis complex in time for the first home match of spring 2015.

Loyola worked with the Maryland Department of the Environment to cap the site, a former landfill of mainly inorganic construction debris. The 3.5 acres were cleared of mainly invasive species, and almost 200 new trees will be planted.

Rendering of the new tennis complex, coming spring 2015

McClure, who remembers playing on a few courts on the original Jenkins parking lot, is looking forward to seeing his players compete in the new tennis complex. When he learned it would bear his name, he was surprised—and overwhelmed with the response.

“I was very surprised and obviously very honored to have the new complex named in my honor,” he said.

“The day when it was announced was the craziest day of my life on social media. I had over 100 emails, texts, Facebook messages. The most unexpected people came out of the woodwork. I’m very blessed, and the journey here has been fantastic.”

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