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St. Paul Urban Tennis offers space for neighboring community center damaged by arson

St. Paul fire officials determined the fire that caused damage to the Conway Community Center earlier this month was intentionally set.

ST PAUL, Minn. — On any given day, you can spot groups playing tennis at the courts outside the Eastview Recreation Center in St. Paul.

"We love introducing people to tennis," said Song Thao, the executive director of St. Paul Urban Tennis. "The program has been around for 30 years."

Thao says the program moved it's headquarters to the recreation center in 2017 and have since partnered with the City of St. Paul Parks and Recreation – providing programming at more than 25 sites during the summer.

"We do daytime lessons, we have leadership academies and employment opportunities," said Thao.

But that's not all. Thao says when a neighboring community center's building was damaged in a fire earlier this month, they opened up their space to lend a helping hand.

"When this unfortunate event happened, we had to extend our arms," said Thao. "What you're seeing here is some of the kids from the Sanneh Foundation, learning to play tennis, getting introduced to the sport."

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St. Paul fire officials determined the fire that caused damage to the Conway Community Center was intentionally set. Sanneh Foundation has operated the center since 2014, incorporating youth programming to the community, while partnering with the City of St. Paul.

"From there, we're like come on over," said Thao. "They are here everyday from 8 to 5."

"We have a great partnership with Sanneh Foundation and the Conway Community Center," said program director, Joshua Hansen-Connell. 

While fire officials are still investigating all leads, Thao says they're happy to continue lending their space while renovations continue.

"We're just excited about the opportunity," Thao said. 

"We're going to lend them our space as long as we need," said Hansen-Connell.

To learn more about St. Paul Urban Tennis, visit the website here.

To help the Sanneh Foundation, visit the link here