Iowa landmarks: A Wimbledon-like tennis court on farmland near Charles City
Mark Kuhn and his wife, Denise, maintain the All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club at their farm south of Charles City. It's a "whimsical replica" of Wimbledon's famed courts and lined using the same paint.
Editor's note: This story was originally published in July 2013.
A brilliant patch of expertly manicured grass sits amid an old cattle feedlot in rural Iowa.
No, we're not talking about the Field of Dreams near Dyersville. We're talking tennis, in the middle of a picturesque landscape.
Shortly-trimmed bentgrass is surrounded by a white picket fence and a purple-and-green color scheme. A British flag blows in the air above.
Is this ... Wimbledon?!?
No, it's the All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club.
It sits along a gravel road and tucked in the middle of cornfields on part of Mark Kuhn's 770-acre farmland on the outskirts of Charles City. The court is Kuhn's replica of the famed All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
Kuhn was 10 when tennis first interested him. One day, he came across a broadcast of Wimbledon on BBC while listening with his grandfather on his short-wave radio. He liked the accents and the tradition.
"One of my chores growing up was to feed the cattle," Kuhn said. "While doing that one night I said, 'This looks about the right size for a tennis court.' I walked it off length and width, and sure enough, it fit there. Like a lot of good ideas, sometimes other things get in the way."
The idea to build a tennis court kept getting pushed to the side. But when Kuhn was 50, one of his close friends suddenly died. He decided it was time to build it or let the dream go.
"Finally, we said, 'We're going to do it or forget it,' " Kuhn said.
So they got to work. Kuhn, with the help of his family and agriculture experts at Iowa State University, transformed the feedlot into a lone grass tennis court. The replica of Wimbledon, down to the acronym AILTC that closely resembles the famous AELTC, opened in 2003 has drawn visitors from numerous states and from as far away as England.
Although his replica is widely popular, Kuhn says it is just that.
"There's nothing like Centre Court," Kuhn said. "My replica is that: It's kind of a whimsical attempt to replicate the lawns at Wimbledon. It's as close as I can make it, but there are just so many things that you can't replicate."
There is no money to be made with the court in his backyard, but Kuhn insists he's seen plenty of return.
"We've been blessed and reimbursed in so many ways," Kuhn said. "This whole story got us to Wimbledon. It got me the dream that I was seeking."