VIDEO: Pickleball, in a Bit of a Pickle
The agenda for the June 15 Pagosa Springs Town Council meeting had looked pretty non-controversial; I had almost decided to skip the meeting. So imagine my confusion and surprise as I walked into the meeting at 5pm and found the audience seats packed with pickleball players.
The agenda hadn’t mentioned Pickleball. But Mayor Don Volger begins each meeting with a chance for concerned members of the public to address the Council, on any subject whatsoever.
We were about to get an earful, about the joys of pickleball.
For those of you who might not be familiar yet with this fast-growing sport — allegedly the fastest growing sport in the U.S. — we’ve included a short video interview with one of the sport’s local promoters, Heidi Moller, filmed last month at the Ross Aragon Community Center. Ms. Moller gave a similar (but even more thorough)presentation at the June 15 Council meeting; she is officially an “Ambassador” for the USA Pickleball Association.
As you may be able to discern from this short video, pickleball can be described as a cross between tennis and ping pong.
The controversy, as it unfolded for the Town Council, concerns a new wood floor scheduled to be installed at the Community Center this month. The original rubberized floor installed in the Center’s gymnasium-sized multi-purpose room is failing, and the Town resolved earlier this year to install a new wood floor rather than repair the existing floor.
Apparently, the pickleball players learned that the new floor will be painted with permanent court lines for basketball and for volleyball — but not for pickleball. This would mean that the pickleball players would be required to lay down temporary taped lines for their courts. The taped lines wear out and require replacement at regular intervals — a process that takes about 20 minutes per court.
Painted pickleball lines, on the new wood floor, would save time and expense. Furthermore, the officially painted lines would serve as an acknowledgement that pickleball is here to stay, and ranks with other competitive sports that utilize the (generally underutilized) Ross Aragon Community Center.
But following the enthusiastic testimony from a dozen pickleball aficionados, endorsed by nodding heads from the rest of the packed audience, we heard from Town Manager Greg Schulte.
“Mr. Mayor, as a follow-up. Obviously, we have some demonstrated interest here. But staff does not support the permanent striping on the floor. We have our reasons for that — but I think we could certainly have that as a full discussion at our July 7 [Town Council] meeting.
“I guess I would invite the pickleball players to attend that meeting, and we will prepare a full report and we can present that to the Council for a policy decision.”
A member of the pickleball group asked if the staff report would be available before the July 7 meeting. Mr. Schulte explained that the Council’s report packet is generally available on the Town website by the Thursday or Friday before the meeting. That packet was posted today; you can click here to download the July 7 packet.
Mayor Volger assured the audience that a discussion of the Community Center pickleball striping would be included on the July 7 agenda.
As I understand the situation, the Town Recreation Department organizes basketball and volleyball leagues for various age groups and conducts games at the Community center; thus the permanent painted lines for those leagues at the Town-owned Community Center. Pickleball, however, is organized by an ad hoc volunteer group, not connected to the Town Recreation Department. Apparently, the Town staff is reluctant to permanently stripe a popular competitive sport if the program is run by an outside group?
At the conclusion of the June 15 meeting, I asked Mr. Schulte if the Town would consider including pickleball as an official Town program. He thought it might be possible — but then the pickleball group would need to pay a fee, as other Town-sponsored sports do, to help cover staff time.
Pickleball at the Ross Aragon Community Center has been cancelled for the month of July, to allow for the installation of the new wood floor. Stay tuned.