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Durango could spend thousands for popular pickleball courts

Specialized courts answer to community complaints
Pickleball might be getting more popular every year, but irked community members have complained to the city of Durango about the tennis-like sport. Durango City Council will consider appropriating $150,000 for new courts in the 2021 budget.

Pickleball might be getting more popular every year, but irked community members have complained to the city of Durango about the tennis-like sport.

New courts, long sought after by local pickleball enthusiasts, may be the solution .

The sport, created by three dads in 1965, combines elements of tennis, badminton and pingpong. Named either after a boating term or a dog called Pickle, it involves paddles, wiffle balls and a specialized court with a zone called the “kitchen.”

In Durango, pickleball’s popularity started to pick up in the 2010s. In 2016, the Southwest Colorado Pickleball Association had six members; in 2020, it had about 150, said Jacob Fillion, SCPA president. But pickleball shares court space with tennis, which has caused tensions between players. It also comes with a repetitive knocking sound, louder than tennis, which has irritated neighbors.

As soon as 2021, the city could spend $150,000 designing eight courts just for pickleball in the Three Springs Community Park.

“It has been determined that the best course of action would be to build new dedicated pickleball courts to avoid the conflict of sharing limited court space with tennis,” said Cathy Metz, Durango Parks and Recreation director, in an email to The Durango Herald.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will propose funding the project in the 2021 budget to Durango City Council during a meeting Wednesday, she said.

If funded, the project would also fulfill years of requests from pickleball players to have their own courts.

At first, players used tennis courts at East Third Avenue and 12th Street. When the city resurfaced the courts, it did not repaint the pickleball lines.

Fillion attributed that to lobbying by the tennis association.

“Tennis players didn’t like having extra lines on the courts,” he said. “Apparently, pickleball players are a bit rambunctious and having a little too much fun.”

Durango School District 9-R, Parks and Recreation and SCPA worked together to find a place for the sport, eventually settling on the outdoor tennis courts at Needham Elementary School in 2019.

Neighbors in the area complained about the noise and wanted the sport to stop, Fillion said.

“A neighbor was coming over, yelling at players and taking pictures of players’ license plates,” Fillion said. “Four people asked me, ‘Do you think this person is crazy enough that he would come with a gun?’ They were nervous about it.”

When the school district allowed them to play on tennis courts at Durango High School, tennis players again expressed irritation at having to share the courts, he said.

“The tennis community here is also very supportive of pickleball players getting their own courts so we don’t bug them,” Fillion said.

Pickleball, often cast as a sport for senior citizens, has become popular with people of all ages. Past tournaments in Durango have included everyone from teenagers to seniors and included out-of-state players.

Fillion makes the case that more tournaments could equal more tourism dollars for restaurants and hotels.

“If we were able to have our own courts and have more tournaments, you would see all those economic benefits multiply,” he said.


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