Lulu’s Place: $150M philanthropic project for LA youth breaks ground

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City leaders break ground for Lulu’s Place in Westchester Photo by Jay Andrino.

Lulu's Place, a $150 million athletic center funded entirely by donations, broke ground in Westchester. Situated on a 31-acre lot north of LAX, the center will feature soccer fields, basketball courts, and various recreational spaces. In addition, children will have access to free and low-cost sports and academic programs.

Doug Kimmelman, founder of Energy Capital Partners, wanted to honor his late wife Carol "Lulu" Kimmelman, a beloved South LA public school teacher and former USC Women's Tennis team champion, who passed away from cancer in 2017. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

This is a massive project. How did it come together?

Kimmelman: “We wanted to honor a very special lady. Her nickname was Lulu, and we’re calling our center Lulu’s Place. She was an elementary school teacher in South Central LA at Raymond Avenue Elementary School. She loved those kids more than anything. She also was quite an athlete on the USC tennis team. I think they were the only undefeated team in their history. They won the national championship. 

She had a long eight-year battle with ovarian cancer and loved everything about Los Angeles, but really focused on the underserved of the inner city. So, this was really the vision of my children to do something special that will impact tens of thousands of kids centered around education, health, wellness, fitness — really her passions.”

Doug Kimmelman appears with late wife Carol “Lulu” Kimmelman. Courtesy of the Kimmelman Family. 

There's no fee, kids can go for free? 

“Absolutely. It's free. So there’s really important partners in this project. Tiger Woods and his foundation have been doing this for years, if not decades, to give kids supplemental academic enrichment, focused on STEM education.   

And then partnering with the United States Tennis Association. We're gonna have several dozen tennis courts, and get kids out there and get them moving. And really trying to remove them from the impact of drugs, violence, gangs, and maybe difficult home situations, to have perhaps hopefully a more fulfilling, productive and happy life.”

It seems like kids need a place like this, but they're not getting it in their neighborhoods, or they're not getting it through the public schools. Do you think there's a failure somewhere?

“The schools can only do so much, whether we can blame it on funding, whether we can blame it on broken bureaucracy, whether we can blame it on an eroding family structure — the challenge is enormous. Then we get to fitness and childhood obesity. Los Angeles has one of the worst statistics in the country. So this isn't finger-pointing or blaming. The need is beyond obvious. I hope this project can be a role model for other cities around the country.” 




Shaquille Woods