Pickleball to replace in-line skating at Mercury Park

Alex Doty • May 5, 2017 at 10:00 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — Like the Detroit Red Wings’ Joe Louis Arena, the days are numbered for the Mercury Park in-line skating rink.

The Grand Haven Township Board has determined that the park’s rink should be removed and replaced with pickleball courts.

Township Manager Bill Cargo said the board decided it’s time for the transition based on the rink’s low usage.

“The use has dropped dramatically since this was first constructed,” he noted.

Northwest Ottawa Recreation Authority officials say they have recorded a dip in participation for in-line hockey programs hosted at the township park’s rink. 

NORA Coordinator Jill Vander Stel said the in-line hockey program had a high of 420 participants in 2001.

“Back when we had that many kids, we had two portable rinks between Griffin and White Pines (schools),” she said.

In-line hockey participation has dwindled in recent years: 46 participants in 2014, 24 in 2015 and zero last year.

“It’s declined to a point where we can’t even run a league,” Vander Stel said, noting that organizers began to notice a shift once lacrosse was introduced several years ago.

Vander Stel noted that while it is sad to see the in-line rink go, she also understands the township’s position.

“I really give Grand Haven Township credit for staying current and on top of trends, and knowing when to say when,” she said.

Cargo added: “If you look at the use of the pickleball courts in the city of Grand Haven and Spring Lake Village, there are always lines of people using them during prime hours.”

The drop in usage is coupled with upkeep needs at the rink. Cargo said the rink requires “significant maintenance,” with cost estimates showing at least $25,000 for basic maintenance and repairs.

“To do it right, it would be costing us close to $80,000,” Cargo said.

The Township Board has instructed staff to proceed with the design and construction of pickleball courts at the park. He said they hope to fit 7-8 courts in the space once occupied by the rink.

“It’ll be nice to have a facility that caters not just to the younger population, but to those with a little more experience,” Cargo said of the plan.

The cost for the improvements is estimated at $115,000, with funds coming from the township’s General Fund balance. Cargo said the fund has enough beyond the recommended six-month cushion.

Even if the project planning comes together over the next several weeks, the new facility won’t likely be ready until next spring.

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