Scottsdale Parks & Recreation plunged into pickleball predicament

The craze sweeping the nation is pickleball and Scottsdale residents want their own piece of the recreational pie. (File photo)

The senior-sport craze sweeping the nation is pickleball and Scottsdale residents want their own piece of the recreational pie. (File photo)

Scottsdale is well known for myriad amenities, recreational activities and sporting events. Whether it’s golf, swimming, tennis, biking or hiking, Scottsdale appears to have it all.

But those who enjoy a friendly game of pickleball have to look long and hard to find a place to play in Scottsdale. That may soon change, however, thanks to a recent e-mail campaign conducted by pickleball enthusiasts in Scottsdale.

The latest chapter in the public outcry for pickleball equality in Scottsdale involved a July 7 e-mail from a United States of America Pickleball Association Ambassador to city officials and media members outlining suggestions for pickleball expansion within the city.

Stephen Brown, a professor emeritus of marketing from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, is also an ambassador of the fast-growing sport. Mr. Brown says volunteer ambassadors are located across the country and their job is to promote the game and work with cities and private clubs to create playing spaces for the game.

Here are the suggestions that were made in a July 7 e-mail from Mr. Brown:

  • Establish an advisory group of experienced pickleball players and coaches
  • Offer pickleball based upon the wildly popular drop-in model
  • At all outdoor locations offer multiple courts for play
  • Tap into volunteers to launch, build and supervise play
  • Be poised to expand locations and courts for play

The USAPA e-mail followed on the heels of a June 29 e-mail by Eduardo Perez, a retired pickleball enthusiast living in Scottsdale. Mr. Perez’s email apparently opened a can of worms and started the demand for pickleball courts in Scottsdale.

“I can understand that tennis organizers and players around the country and locally feel threatened with tennis courts being converted to pickleball courts,” Mr. Perez stated in the e-mail. “Pickleball is growing very fast. “

Mr. Perez started an e-mail chain containing about 10 messages from citizens concerned over the lack of pickleball playing surfaces in Scottsdale.

“I think it’s the first time it has been a semi-organized effort,” Mr. Brown said in a July 7 phone interview. “The key has been Eduardo Perez, who was introduced to the sport by my wife and I in March. He had made some inquiries in the past and didn’t see much of an effort so he created a website.”

“Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, except in Scottsdale,” according to scottsdalepickleball.com.

The website states Scottsdale has three pickleball courts, compared to Mesa (51) and Phoenix (46), who lead the metropolitan area in pickleball courts.

Scottsdale Parks and Recreation Director Reed Pryor says the city is working toward steps to resolve the problem by converting some tennis courts to pickleball courts.

“We’re looking at neighborhood parks and the effects of accommodating pickleball,” Mr. Pryor said in a July 7 phone interview. “We’re looking at the cost and whether there will be enough bathrooms, lighting and parking spaces.”

As far as city action goes, Mr. Brown says now is the right time.

“We’ve gotten some responses, but just in the form of e-mail,” Mr. Brown said. “One of the city staff members came to Fountain Hills to observe the game, but we don’t have anything tangible at the moment. This is a good time to voice the concern because they’re resurfacing tennis courts and renovating other areas.”

Mr. Brown says one tennis court with large out-of-bounds space can be converted into up to four pickleball courts. Basketball courts are another option for court conversion.

Mr. Brown says he is concerned that many pickleball enthusiasts in Scottsdale are forced to leave the city if they want to play the game they enjoy. He says the e-mail campaign is a step in the right direction.

“Well, I think the e-mails are an indication of how important this is,” Mr. Brown said. “What has happened is Scottsdale residents are traveling outside of the city to play. I would guess one-third to one-half of the Fountain Hills club are Scottsdale residents.”

Mr. Perez’s website states Fountain Hills, a city about one-tenth the size of Scottsdale, is home to 10 pickleball courts.

According to the United States of America Pickleball Association  website, pickleball is, “A paddle sport created for all ages and skill levels. The rules are simple and the game is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.”

The USAPA website lays out three basic points about the up-and-coming sport:

  • A fun sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong
  • Played both indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net
  • Played with a paddle and a plastic ball

Mr. Brown says he is “cautiously optimistic” the city will create more pickleball courts in the future.

“Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country and Scottsdale residents are forced to leave the city to play,” he said.

Mr. Pryor says a public meeting on pickleball will be happening soon, and both Mr. Perez and Mr. Brown will be asked to attend. Mr. Pryor says the date of the meeting is not set, but the parks and recreation department would get to it as soon as it can.

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