The project has been in the works since October 2019, when Trump first posted on her social media about the pavilion, sharing a photo of herself, ceremonial gold shovel in hand to break ground.
A March follow-up post on the progress of the new building unleashed a torrent of comments about the timing, as it took place just as the global coronavirus pandemic was beginning its dramatic spread in the United States after decimating Europe.
“I am excited to share the progress of the Tennis Pavillion at @WhiteHouse. Thank you to the talented team for their hard work and dedication,” Trump shared the information on March 5, accompanied by photographs of Trump wearing a hard hat and looking over what appear to be architectural plans.
The backlash was swift and prompted a rare public defense from Trump two days later: “I encourage everyone who chooses to be negative (and) question my work at the @WhiteHouse to take time and contribute something good (and) productive in their own communities.”
The tennis pavilion is not open to the public and is not a community project. According to the first lady it is meant to be used solely by first families for “leisure time.”
The funds to pay for the pavilion, which is located on the South Lawn near Michelle Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden, were provided by private donation facilitated by the Trust for the National Mall, which also solicited funds for Trump’s other project, the renovated Rose Garden.
The White House has so far refused to disclose the list of the donors.
Last June, the National Park Service, which operates the 18-acre grounds of the White House, submitted a proposal for the new tennis pavilion to the National Capital Planning Commission. The proposal outlined a structure that will be “approximately 1,200 square feet in area and approximately 18 feet in height,” “clad in limestone,” and with a “copper roof.”
The first lady’s interior designer also worked on furnishings for the interior, according to a source familiar with the situation.