”Currently, we have two tennis courts and six pickleball courts,“ City Manager Pat McGinnis said. ”A couple of different options were kicked around by the (city’s) Parks and Recreation Board to expand the number of pickleball courts and reduce the tennis courts to one or none.”
According to McGinnis, the parks board recommended with a 3-1 vote that City Council take away one tennis court, which would allow the addition of four pickleball courts.
Pickleball is a racquet sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Two, three or four players use paddles to hit a perforated ball over a net on court sizes smaller than tennis courts.
“You’d have a total of 10 pickelball courts and one tennis court there,” McGinnis said.
The present configuration is the result of a compromise reached in 2011, when it was agreed that the city would build two tennis courts and six pickleball courts as the area was reconstructed as part of the expansion project at the adjacent water treatment facility.
McGinnis noted that any change now could be seen as long term.
“Nothing is forever, but the changes being requested could be characterized as permenant,” he said. “Once you move those posts, it’s a costly thing to move them back.”
Local pickleball enthusiasts say more courts are needed because of the increasing popularity of the sport.
“In 2011, we had 30 members,“ said Bob Helder, vice president of the Lakeshore Pickleball Club. ”In 2014, we had 204 members in our club, (and) today we have almost 300.”
Helder noted that this past summer, 180 seniors participated in a Coast Guard Festival pickleball tournament, which had to be spread out over several days since they didn’t have enough courts.
”We need (the city’s) help to make us even better and have more places for us to play,“ Helder said. ”The easiest way would be to let us ... take over one or both.”
The popularity of the pickleball courts is a stark contrast to the tennis court use, noted Helder.
“Those two tennis courts might be used one hour a day,” he said. “There’s other places for them to play.”
Other tennis courts in the city include:
• Nine courts at White Pines Intermediate School
• Four courts at Lakeshore Middle School (could be removed in the near future due to improvements under consideration by the school district)
• Two private courts in Highland Park
City leaders say they’ll likely discuss the issue at a future City Council meeting in order to gather input from both pickleball and tennis enthusiasts.