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New pickle ball courts inch closer

MELISSA REID
Associate Publisher
mreid@lbknews.com

The Longboat Key Commission reached consensus to move forward with four new pickle ball courts last week.

Commissioner Jack Daly felt that the interest level in pickle ball was significant enough that the idea of new courts had merit.

“I’ve tried pickle ball, and it’s not only for elderly people, our younger children and grandchildren have played it as well. I think the enthusiasm you see here is well taken. A couple of observations, one is I think it’s important that it be melded into the tennis center operations, not only for insuring Longboat Key, but for scheduling. There are possible fundraising options. It was very helpful to the tennis center to have ‘Friends of Tennis’ so I think that’s vital here to get the support they need. I think monitoring is important, but not so much in the summer. We are a snowbird community so I wouldn’t pay much attention to the summer. Monitoring and reviewing the usage of pickle ball during the peak season is very helpful. I am fully supportive and I look to Isaac and the Town Manager for when this could be brought back to us,” said Daly.

Daly also noted that in addition to the private fundraising that could be used to raise money for the construction and maintenance of pickle ball courts, could be funding from the newly approved St. Regis Hotel plan by Unicorp.

“There is a condition in the Unicorp agreement to have $200,000 go to improvements on the key, which could fit within the confines of the idea of constructing four courts. I would limit it to the four, that’s what the staff has been looking at,” said Daly.

Public Works Director Isaac Brownman summarized what he and his staff have observed over the past several months in terms of pickle ball use. He also gave suggestions about possible plans going forward on where to construct some extra pickle ball courts.

Currently, the town has striped pickle ball courts onto one of the two designated tennis courts at Bayfront Park. So to add four more courts, the town would have to look at other places, since Bayfront Park is built out. One of the options Brownman listed was to expand the tennis center by placing new pickle ball courts next to the library or near the parking lot at the tennis center. He noted that due diligence would have to be done to determine the feasibility of these sites, however.

“Design and construction costs for a single pickle ball court is $50,000. Funding sources for the capital improvement project would be in the Parks & Recreation Capital Project Fund, but there may also be competing demands. A potential is to partially or fully fund additional pickle ball courts by private sources,” said Brownman.

Brownman said the next steps would be to check the site feasibility to determine the practicality of expanding the tennis center operation to include pickle ball, and gather tennis center members’ feedback and library staff feedback about the addition of pickle ball. Then, Brownman says, would be to develop a business plan for the tennis center to address projected capital costs, funding sources and operational impact.

Commissioner Ed Zunz asked if the town could limit or restrict the public space to Longboat residents only, but Brownman said he was not sure that would be possible nor would it be enforceable.

Town Manager Tom Harmer said he knows of parks within Sarasota County where the non-residents pay a fee, and residents are free, but none where the public is prohibited in any way.

Tennis Center Director Kay Thayer said that she runs the tennis center in a way where someone can pay to use the courts as a member or as a guest.

Several residents spoke at the meeting in support of adding the extra pickleball courts, including the Ambassador for Pickleball on Longboat Key, Sarah Cullen.

“We have started open play on Tuesday and Thursday at Bayfront. We have over 16-20 players waiting in rotation, we could easily use two more courts. I have seen first hand how this sport is exploding. I can assure you that if you build them, they will come,” said Cullen.

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1 Response for “New pickle ball courts inch closer”

  1. Suny Gravy says:

    If Jack Daly and the rest of the Commissioner’s will only cough up $100,000 of the $200,000 necessary for more Pickleball Courts vote the recalcitrant Commissioner’s out when their terms are up and replace them with Picleballer’s. Pickleball is a more popular expense than wasting money on a monument of a Town Center which the majority of Pickleball friendly people will never use.

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