PRD justifies their 5-month pickleball trial at Beach by citing rising interest and skyrocketing demand, so allow me to quantify this with a fancy word problem.
Typical pickleball matches last 15-30 minutes, played as doubles, and Beach Courts hold four concurrent matches at a time. Translation? Beginning Feb. 27, roughly 45-50 pickleballers per hour and over 500 pickleballers per day could play at Beach.
Got that? Pickleball’s more ubiquitous than COVID.
What is that same value for tennis, at Beach, beginning Feb. 27? Zero. Sound equitable?
It gets worse. To obtain a tennis decal PRD requires the applicant be a Piedmont resident with a $50 per year charge for an adult, along with $6 per court usage. Cost for pickleball? $0. Piedmont residency requirement? None. Wait, so free stuff has high demand?
PRD justifies shutting down tennis at Beach for five months by citing it is in poor condition, the least utilized for tennis, and unable to technically host competitive play.
First, describing Beach Courts as “poor condition” is like describing the DMV as “a tad inefficient.” Beach has effectively one usable tennis court with the other looking more like the surface of the moon.
Second, there is a greater amount of drop-in tennis play at Beach vs Hampton due to higher foot traffic on adjacent sidewalks.
Further, pickleball play does not even require registrations – it’s entirely free drop-in. Relevance? Even if PRD had presented objective utilization data – which they haven’t – it won’t change the fact it’s inherently flawed and one-sided.
Finally, regarding competitive tennis play: there is an actual plan, presented to the Rec Commission Nov. 7, 2018, that includes a design to rotate Beach Courts 90 degrees to conform to competitive tennis specs.
Now you may be asking, as did my very logical 1st grader, “why can’t we just keep sharing the courts?” as tennis and pickleball currently co-exist at Beach.
His bewildered expression of toothless naivete also got me wondering why neither PRD nor the city has widened the aperture and considered alternative options for this space ahead of the August 2023 repaving, such as basketball, badminton, or Beach volleyball!? We don’t know, but what is known is that allocating every hour of daylight for almost half a year at Beach to pickleball is not a meritocratic way to answer this question.
And before you pickleballers paddle off a vociferous defense of the sport, allow me to point out the merits of pickleball are not germane to this discussion. The point, instead, is that unilaterally changing the functionality of a public park in an inequitable manner for half a year, without adequate input from the tax-paying community in advance, is no laughing matter. It’s an egregious foot-fault by PRD leadership.
Expansion of pickleball hours should indeed be explored, but the Rec Commission should Vote “No” on Feb. 15 and form a subcommittee to pursue this using appropriate process, governance and oversight.
Piedmont deserves nothing less.