Sunday, May 26, 2024

City Adopts New Pickleball Program

Kirk Shoemaker, Jennie Portelli and Don Grueser outside city council chambers after city’s pickleball plan was approved.

Tennis players and pickleball players, who have been engaged in what might have been called a turf war for the past couple of months, were all smiles after the parks and recreation commission meeting Monday afternoon.

The commission voted unanimously to adopt a staff report that gives structure to the city’s pickleball program for a one-year trial. Starting on August 1, 2015, pickleball can only be played high school courts on D Avenue, in the Community Center gym and the number 5 court at the Cays for specified hours. It will no longer be allowed at Coronado Tennis Center (CTC).

City staff will oversee the courts at the high school and gym, but not at the Cays. There, pickleball players must provide the tape to stripe the courts; the players will also be responsible for applying and removing the tape to the courts. Miller also indicated the city would provide a place to store the net and to put up a windshield (at an estimated cost of $30,000) on the court, as wind gusts at the Cays have been a problem with pickleball players.

“The recommendation is creative, thorough and complete,” said Larry Blum, Coronado Tennis Association (CTA) treasurer.

The CTC has hosted pickleball players and instructional clinics for over a year. As the game grew in popularity, pickleball enthusiasts requested permanent lines on two of the CTC courts, so they wouldn’t have to create pickleball lines with tape every time they played. This would have jeopardized future league and tournament tennis at the CTC, as the United States Tennis Association requires that both league and tournament play be held on courts striped only for tennis.

The adoption of the staff report represents a victory for the CTA, who circulated a petition in mid-June to “ban pickleball from CTC or adding dedicated pickleball adjacent to the Cays Courts,” that garnered over 75 signatures in support, according to CTA president Jennie Portelli. Protecting the CTC was critical for both the association and the city. “CTC is the premier tennis facility in the city and should be reserved for tennis play exclusively,” Miller said in his report.

The report wasn’t just celebrated by local tennis enthusiasts, though — there was much in the staff report to please pickleball players as well. Twelve local players signed a letter to the parks and recreation commission ahead of the meeting expressing their support for the staff report. The report provides pickleball enthusiasts more courts to play on and a city-sponsored program to help promote their sport.

“We believe that the recommendations will provide an excellent opportunity for us to continue to play pickleball in Coronado and for other Coronado residents to join us.”

Both sides credited Miller with avoiding a protracted war by bringing the two groups together and crafting a plan that satisfied both. Councilman Richard Bailey also worked to find common ground between the pickleball players and tennis players early on in the process.

Pickleball is a trending sport, especially among seniors. It is played at dozens of clubs and recreation centers through out San Diego County, according to the Pickleball Association’s website. Because the sport is relatively new, most only offer temporary facilities – taped lines on gymnasium floors or on existing tennis courts. Last year the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club and Museum in Encinitas became the first in the area to offer designated courts. Participation exploded. “Before we had a few dozen [players] now we have over 700,” said Steve Dawson, the club’s owner and pro.

The City of Carlsbad is also considering adding pickleball courts to a proposed multigenerational recreation facility now in early in the preliminary planning stages.

Coronado is not ready to make that kind of commitment just yet. Miller told the commission that the city wanted to determine the number of “core” participants pickleball has before spending money on a facility. For example, a golfer is considered a “core participant” when they play eight or more times a year, he explained. Using that criterion, he determined that there were 30 residents who are core pickleball players, not enough to warrant a major investment in the sport.

Another important consideration: of the 331 people who have tried pickleball this past year only 92, or 28%, were residents of Coronado.

Miller also pointed out that there was “no way to determine [pickleball’s] staying power. “It’s not a new sport, but it’s new Coronado.” He told the commission that he wanted determine how many core players there were in town before it expended more substantial resources to the sport.

By August 1, 2016, when the trial period ends, Miller believes his staff will be able to “determine the core participation rate” among residents and what physical and financial resources will be necessary to accommodate pickleball. For now, though, the city has set aside $100,000 in the its capital improvement project (CIP) fund pickleball in the future in the event the city council decided there was enough interest to build.

The recreation department also plans to play a role in building that interest. “Our intent is that we will be able to hold some classes and games in the gym as part of the overall program,” Miller said in an e-mail following the commission meeting.
“We should have something in place by the fall.” For their part, pickleball players will also continue to evangelize the sport as well. There is, according to player Don Grueser, “phenomenal growth right now and I’m committed to introducing more people to the sport and making it even more popular.”


Gloria Tierney

Staff Writer

Gloria Tierney
Gloria Tierney
A freelance writer in San Diego for more than 30 years. She has written for a number of national and international newspapers, including the Times of London, San Diego Tribune, Sierra Magazine, Reuters News Service and Patch.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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