pickleball

Annie Lewis demonstrates how to play pickleball during a clinic in Hermosa Beach on Saturday, July 14, 2018. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

Players of the fast-growing sport pickleball received a setback in Redondo Beach this week when the City Council nixed an idea to convert one of two tennis courts at a park on the city’s north side into four pickleball courts.

The council unanimously voted not to move forward with a public process to consider pickleball courts at Anderson Park, even when presented with the option to possibly make them temporary — much like Manhattan Beach did at one of its parks.

The council did, however, agree to direct staff to look into funding a pickleball complex somewhere in the 2020-21 fiscal year budget, which could cost upwards of $100,000.

Pickleball is essentially a smaller version of tennis, but with a Wiffle Ball and with a playing area roughly one-quarter the size of a tennis court.

But Shannon “Gunner” Carter, a Redondo Beach resident and pickleball advocate, said the council’s decision on Tuesday, July 2, was not a total defeat — since at least staff will look into funding a court.

Carter has played this up-and-coming sport for the past four years and currently serves as pickleball’s Los Angeles district metro ambassador, a volunteer position he took up because he cared so much about making more courts available.

Out of 88 cities in Los Angeles County, only nine of them have pickleball courts, including Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, which opened courts in 2017, according to Carter.

The downside to Carter’s mission is that it frequently puts him at odds with tennis advocates, who also often face a shortage of court space.

That conflict played out Tuesday.

Tennis advocates and their pickleball counterparts filled the Redondo Beach Council Chambers. One pair of young brothers carried signs advocating for tennis: “15 million more people play tennis than pickleball,” one said.

“Please save our tennis courts,” the other read.

Several residents told the council they often have to wait for an available tennis court at Anderson Park.

“There is a vibrant little tennis community of about 100 people at Anderson Park who have been playing there for decades,” said Stephen Sacks, a longtime tennis player. “To mess up that ecosystem, I just don’t think is fair.”

Out of roughly a dozen speakers, those wanting to preserve the tennis courts outnumbered those favoring pickleball courts by about 4-to-1. Rob Young, a tennis player, said adding temporary pickleball nets and re-striping already busy tennis courts would sow confusion.

“We already have contention on the courts,” he said. “Now throw the pickle guys in there, and you’re just going to create a mess.”

About 3.1 million people play pickleball in the United States, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association; tennis has roughly 17.9 million players, according to the Physical Activity Council.

But both sports have limited funding. So often, the fight for more pickleball courts comes at the expense of tennis courts.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, Carter said. He proposed a solution where a court could be converted on a temporary basis for pickleball use with simple sets that stand-up on their own.

“I just want everybody to know we are not trying to intrude on tennis players,” Carter said in an interview Wednesday, July 3. “But I am realistic. If you go to a council or a city, they are not going to shell out 150-grand ($150,000) and build you a dedicated pickle ball complex.”

Carter, for his part, said he was pleasantly surprised when the City Council voted unanimously to look for money next year to build dedicated pickleball courts.

Councilmember Laura Emdee, who represents the district where Anderson Park is located, said the emails she received about the proposal were “not very nice,” but she was glad that residents kept the debate civil on Tuesday.

“When I first heard about taking away one court to make the others,” Emdee said at the meeting, “that didn’t sit well with me.”

She then voted to search for funding new courts.

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