Longboat to expand pickleball at park; remove Bayfront tennis

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Two existing tennis courts at Bayfront Park will soon be replaced with approximately eight pickleball courts.

Town of Longboat Key commissioners reached consensus Monday that pickleball would best be separated from tennis, so as to avoid the cross-court noise from pickleball that would affect tennis players at the Tennis Center and the neighboring All Angels By The Sea Episcopal Church.

Although Mayor George Spoll suggested that if the new Bayfront Park Recreation Center building were constructed next to the water, the current space where the existing building is could be used for additional pickleball or tennis courts — thereby keeping some tennis courts at the park — the commission ultimately decided to keep the building where it is.

At the previous commission meeting, it had been suggested that pickleball courts be added to the Tennis Center behind the Longboat Library. This would create the need for more parking spaces and require overflow parking to be accommodated at the Library and perhaps Temple Beth Israel.

Former Mayor Jim Brown felt that direction wouldn’t be the best way to move forward.

“It seems to me we need to follow our own rules, and not just put the courts there because we can cheat and take away 20 (parking) spots,” said Brown.

Tennis Center member Fanny Cohen Younger spoke to the commission and explained she had collected 229 signatures in support of keeping pickleball and tennis separated at the two different locations. Younger spoke of converting the tennis courts at Bayfront Park to pickleball courts, and perhaps adding two tennis courts to the Tennis Center to replace the lost ones at the Bayfront Park.

Resident Bob Dreyfus agreed with Younger, “I realize pickleball is popular and putting all pickleball courts at Bayfront Park is a wonderful idea.”

Commissioner Jack Daly agreed with Dreyfus and Younger that removing the tennis courts at the Bayfront Park and replacing them with pickleball courts was a good idea, but that some funding and a way to help manage the players would be appropriate.

“It seems to me that in the pickleball community some form of private funding will go a long way toward showing there is a serious interest in pickleball. I think we need more of a foundation of membership or fees. That will help it move forward,” said Daly.

Spoll agreed pickleball should stay at Bayfront Park.

“I think we could create a kiosk kind of arrangement where both tennis and pickleball are organized,” added Spoll.

Commissioner Mike Haycock said, “I play pickleball three times a week at the Key Club and they have a system in place. I think the Tennis Center is set up for organization. Reluctantly, I guess I’m okay with moving the pickleball to the Bayfront, but I don’t know if we have the engineering. We have to have a sign up system, and find a way to manage it.”

Commissioner Ken Schneier said he was sure it would be less costly to change the tennis courts to pickleball courts than to construct new courts.

Brown suggested that the town get volunteers to organize a pickleball schedule, saving money for the town to pay someone.

The Town Commission reached consensus to move forward with removing the tennis courts at Bayfront Park and convert them into pickleball courts. The issue will be discussed again at a future commission meeting.

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3 Responses for “Longboat to expand pickleball at park; remove Bayfront tennis”

  1. jean kirshenbaum says:

    II am a lifelong tennis player and have been involved in pickle ball politics here in Sarasota County. Here, the county unilaterally made 16 public courts “multi use” with the overlay of pickle ball lines. The decision to do that was unilateral, with no public input or discussion. We fought hard to have the 2 public courts at Twin Lakes park resurfaced and were thrilled when the county did it. Then, a few months later, they painted on bright blue pickle ball lines. Clearly, we tennis players were too late to have any influence in this matter. We did not even have the opportunity, since it seems that decisions were made in the dark. That being said, however it turns out on Longboat Key, I applaud the open and inclusive process for making decisions.

  2. Reece Pierce says:

    My wife and I have lived on LBK since 1991 and have enjoyed playing tennis on these hard courts for all these years at this incredible location on the bay. Importantly, the mid-key location is more ideal for ALL residents to enjoy these courts as opposed to a more southern location. The considerate and low key tennis players have kindly endured the recent few years of “encroachment” of pickleball onto the courts and it is not fair to be pushed out and away. Tennis should have priority just from the fact that they were there first and pickleball should make its own way rather than a take-over of this location.

  3. ron sislowski says:

    It is sad to see tennis courts being absorbed into the more intense tennis center so that we can expand pickle ball. A large group of low key tennis players had a very nicely organized round robin 3x a week at Bayfront and this will be eliminated from what I am reading. More pickle ball courts–fine. But it should not be at the expense of those who love to hit a few balls with loved ones and maybe compete at a less intense level than the tennis center.

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