‘We’re on the same team here’: Community gives back to John Powless Tennis Center after flooding

A close-knit tennis community is helping a facility on Madison’s west side get back to normal after August’s historic flooding.

“You look at life a little differently after this, that’s for sure,” Jason Powless said. “Minus the walls, minus the desks, minus the furniture, minus the carpet.”

It’s a strange sight for Powless, whose father started the John Powless Tennis Center in 1979. John Powless is a well-known as a former University of Wisconsin basketball and tennis coach.

“This is kind of home,” Jason Powless said.

‘We’re on the same team here’: Community gives back to John Powless Tennis Center after floodingSusan McDonald, who has been playing tennis at the center for eight years, said it’s a second home for members, too.

“Family encompasses more than the last name ‘Powless,'” she said. “Everyone who works here, plays here, comes here every day, we’re all one family here.”

McDonald was there the night the building flooded.

“When we saw the devastation that night, I was heartbroken. Everyone was heartbroken,” she said. “We were afraid we lost this place.”

“I’ve been in Madison a long time, and I have never witnessed anything quite like that,” John Powless said, adding that the facility was underwater, with water outside destroying 21 cars in the parking lot and trapping seven people inside the building until 2 a.m.

“The force of water is beyond your imagination,” he said.

Staff got the courts up and running about a week later, but two months later, the damaged lobby remains under construction.

John Powless isn’t sure on the cost of the damage but said the cleanup costs alone are in the six figures.

“We all feel like we’re on the same team here,” McDonald said.

She knew there would be an outpouring of community support — it was just a matter of channeling it. She created a GoFundMe page, which has received donations from across the tennis community and from around the world.

“That’s who John Powless is. He’s had such a lifetime of treating people with such respect, dignity and kindness. It’s good karma coming back to him,” she said.

The GoFundMe page has raised about $35,000 of its $50,000 goal.

“I truthfully can feel this in my heart, I really can, because it has that much of an impact on you,” John Powless said.

“You can go through life and not really know what kind of an impact you have,” Jason Powless said. “It’s been very humbling and very heartfelt.”

Jason Powless said the new lobby should be complete in the next few weeks.

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