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Cronins return to home court at Cascades Racquet Club

CLINTON – For a time, it seemed Greg Cronin`s career path would wind straight through the heart of corporate America. At home in a coat and tie in the fast-paced field of telecommunications, he found success and earned a wealth of experience and knowledge, as well as a good paycheck.

But Cronin always wanted to be closer to families – both his own and others – even before he finished college, when he taught tennis lessons during school breaks at his family`s business, Cascades Racquet Club. He dreamed of one day owning a facility just like Cascades, where he could offer a venue and services that would build stronger families while at the same time offering more time with his own loved ones.

Dreams do come true, for last October, Greg purchased Cascades Racquet Club. A whirlwind of renovations and planned expansions continue, and Greg`s days are full. He wouldn`t have it any other way.

“Believe it or not, this is why I bought Cascades,” said a smiling Greg as he played “Mr. Mom” to two of his children while wife/business partner Kimberly filled an emergency slot on the club`s tennis team during a Cascades-hosted tournament. He was also answering the phones, greeting members and paying contractors while trying to eat a bite of lunch. “I couldn`t have done this sitting in front of a computer at SkyTel.”

It`s been an interesting journey for both Greg and Cascades Racquet Club. The fitness/sports/entertainment complex was a facet of one of the first planned unit developments (PUDs) in Mississippi, Cascades in Clinton. Built by PUD developer J.E. Carter, originally the club featured a clubhouse, pool and two tennis courts, and membership was open only to the subdivision`s residents.

In the late-1980s, Greg`s parents, Dr. Ken and Sue Cronin, along with partner Bobby Dotson, purchased Cascades Racquet Club, and immediately embarked on expansion, including opening membership to those outside the Cascades subdivision. The club flourished.

In the mid-1990s, Greg`s parents sold their share in the club to Bobby Dotson and his cousin, John Dotson. In the mid-1990s, John bought out Bobby.

In the mean time, Greg, who grew up in Clinton, enrolled at Millsaps College where he played tennis. He eventually went on to Brigham Young University, where he earned a bachelor`s degree in business. But Cascades was still a part of his life, and he taught tennis lessons at the club each summer home from Utah.

After graduating from BYU (he subsequently earned an MBA from Millsaps in 2000, as well) and two years of mission work, Greg returned home and eventually joined then WorldCom Inc., now MCI. As a company representative with the SkyTel division, Greg said he was afforded the chance to meet seasoned business people that he used as teachers. He called the experience invaluable.

Then, the WorldCom accounting scandal hit, and Greg was one of its victims. He was handed a notice that he was being laid off and a severance package. At this crossroads, the road home opened for him.

“I had no idea John would want to sell this place when I left SkyTel,” Greg said. “You can`t tell me it was coincidence. I’ve definitely been blessed.”

Using his severance pay, Greg bought out John Dotson and became sole owner of the club in late October 2003. Greg and friends and family have been busy ever since. Just a few of the improvements made since October include renovating the 1,000-square-foot clubhouse and similar size fitness room; reworking the clay court drainage system; adding music and sound equipment for clubhouse use; signing yard and pool service contracts; and hiring an assistant tennis pro, Michael Ward.

Plans do not end there. Greg is also mulling over adding a low-element ropes course that would be ideal for team- and leadership-building activities for businesses and other groups, a fenced dog park where members could let their pets run and a basketball court, just to name a few.

He has a lot to build from. Situated on four acres encompassing a picturesque lake and attractive landscaping that fits well in the upscale Cascades subdivision, the club currently offers eight tennis courts (two of them clay), a three-tiered pool of varying depths, swimming and tennis lessons and yoga, aerobics and Pilates exercise programs.

“What I want to develop is a place where families can come and improve themselves in every way,” Greg said. “This is not a gym or a fitness center. Really, it`s more like a country club, where people can come, hang out, enjoy themselves. It`s much more than just a tennis club.”

Greg is working hard to get the word out about the club. Well off Northside Drive, some don`t even know Cascades exists, while others believe it is only open to subdivision residents. The club has so far relied on a lot of word-of-mouth, a newsletter and Greg`s extensive community involvement in the Clinton community to draw new members, some of whom may have been members sometime in the past. His membership goal is between 250-300.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.


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