Pickleball popularity prodding LBK policy

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The increasingly popular pickleball phenomenon is back on the town agenda.

Longboat Key Public Works Director Isaac Brownman will ask the town commission on March 28 at the workshop meeting if it wishes to pursue expanding the public tennis center to include pickle ball.

Earlier this year, the commission asked Brownman and his staff to determine just how popular pickle ball is on Longboat Key and what the demands are on the Bayfront Park Recreation Center where there currently exists one dedicated pickle ball court.

Brownman has written that due to the popularity and demand during this current busy season, the town recently striped two additional pickle ball courts onto one of the existing tennis courts at the Bayfront Park. This has left one of the tennis courts pristine and unmolested, and the other criss-crossed with striping to serve as a dual purpose court situation.

Over the past three months, the Public Works staff observed the usage of the tennis, pickle ball and basketball courts at Bayfront Park, to determine they’re popularity. The courts were checked between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and found on the 50 instances observed, the courts were being used 15 times for tennis, 20 times for pickle ball, and 13 times for basketball.

Although it was suggested by one commissioner that the basketball court be re-striped to accommodate pickle ball, Brownman said he and staff believe that maintaining a dedicated full basketball court is a value to the town.

As a side note, Brownman reports that a number of pickle ball players are coming from off-island to play at the Bayfront facility.


Longer-term option

Brownman said that from the point of view of membership, education and management, an ideal location for future pickle ball expansion would be at the Public Tennis Center next to the Post Office. This location would allow for reservations and lessons, while providing a revenue stream to cover some or all of the operation costs. Existing staff would provide an economy of scale, says Brownman.

Brownman’s further analysis reveals that there is undeveloped town land north and west of the Longboat Library on the west side of Bay Isles Road as well as limited space at the tennis center parking area on the east side of Bay Isles Road that may facilitate pickle ball courts. He suggests that the goal would be to add at least four pickle ball courts to the tennis center operation to provide adequate space for the anticipated demand and to accommodate league play. Brownman writes that an early estimate for design and construction costs is about $50,000 per court. He adds that a potential funding alterative to using the parks and recreation Capital Project Fund would be private fundraising.

Longboat Key pickle ball ambassador Sara Cullen, has indicated that private fundraising may be possible.

Brownman says that the next steps should be continue to monitor the demand of pickle ball and then to conduct due diligence and site feasibility on the concept of expanding the Tennis Center to include pickle ball. Other steps include developing a business plan as well as public feedback.

For those interested, the meeting will start at 1 p.m. on March 28 in Town Hall.

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