“Regardless of the decision, it wouldn’t be prudent for us to bid it out this year,” Township Manager Bill Cargo said during a Township Board meeting Monday night.
The reasoning, he noted, is due to a strong likelihood of higher-than-anticipated construction costs.
“The amount of work that’s out there, it’s a seller’s market,” Cargo said. “I think we would end up paying a premium that we don’t need to pay.”
The township has estimated the cost for new pickleball courts at $115,000, with funds coming from the township’s General Fund balance, which officials have said has enough of a balance beyond its recommended six-month cushion.
Cargo said the project could be put out to bid in February or March, for a spring 2018 project, if the Township Board decides to stick with its plan to raze the inline rink in favor of pickleball courts.
“At some point, (the Township Board) is going to have to make a decision,” Cargo said.
The board’s plan to remove the inline skating rink has drawn criticism from players who say they still actively use the rink. An online petition has been circulating the past several weeks to let the township officials know that people still use the space, and township officials have received emails and phone calls from rink supporters.
Sean Kittredge helped organize the online petition. He presented results of the petition to the board Monday night.
According to Kittredge, there are 1,342 signatures on the online petition, and he noted that there were additional signatures gathered at Mercury Park.
“We also have 366 signatures on paper (totaling) 1,708 signatures,” he said.
Kittredge said he didn’t think the rink was promoted as well as it could be.
Cheryl Clark also spoke in favor of keeping the inline rink. She said taking away the facility wouldn’t be in the best interest of township youth.
“I think I’d really like to play pickleball,” she said. “I just think it would be nice to do a pickleball court somewhere else and not take away from our kids.”
Clark also commended the local youth who’ve raised awareness about the rink and put forth efforts to save it.
“I want to give these kids credit for stepping up for something they’re passionate about,” she said.
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Township officials have said the inline rink requires “significant maintenance,” with cost estimates ranging from $25,000 for basic maintenance and repairs up to $80,000 to entirely complete the project.
At an April meeting, the Township Board instructed staff to proceed with the design and construction of pickleball courts at the park. It is believed that as many as 7-8 courts could fit in the space occupied by the rink.
Supporters of the pickleball plan said they would welcome additional space to play.
“We were so pleased and excited when we heard Grand Haven Township wanted to put pickleball courts at Mercury Park,” said Carrie Rodgers, secretary of the Lakeshore Pickleball Club. “We need, and would put to use, more courts in the Grand Haven area.”
Rodgers said that if the township put pickleball courts in at Mercury Park, it would be helping to use the park to its fullest potential. She noted that the sport is growing fast, with younger age groups learning to play and participating in tournaments.
“We continue to welcome more players to the courts,” Rodgers said. “There’s something for everyone to enjoy about pickleball.”
Other pickleball courts in the area are located at Mulligan’s Hollow in Grand Haven and Central Park in Spring Lake. The only other inline hockey rink in the area is located at Spring Lake’s Central Park.
The Township Board will host a work session prior to its June 26 meeting to try and come to a consensus on whether to stick with the pickleball plan or keep the inline rink.
Cargo also encourages both the inline skate and pickleball enthusiasts to attend a June 14 public input meeting at the Township Hall to discuss possible uses for the Witteveen and Wolfe park properties. The time of the meeting hasn’t been determined.
While the Witteveen property along 168th Avenue has restrictions on its future use, Cargo noted that the Wolfe property — located to the west of the entrance to Hofma Preserve — could be home to field or court-type facilities, such as pickleball or inline hockey.
“The board has set aside money for the development of these parks,” Cargo said.