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Our View: Pickleball

Players deserve their own courts, but may have to be patient

“City says pickleball makes a racket on outdoor tennis courts.” Another recent headline ripped from the pages of The Durango Herald.

The rapid growth and popularity of pickleball is creating a challenge for Durango. The noise that comes from plastic ball meeting paddle can be loud and, yes, annoying for neighbors of the in-town tennis courts. Tennis players do not appreciate painted, taped or chalked lines on the too few tennis courts in town.

And though pickleballers usually bring their own nets, those who do not, lower the tennis nets to the height for pickleball games. Tennis nets are 36 inches at the center and 42 inches at the post. Pickleball nets are 34 inches at the center and 36 inches at the sideline. This would seem like an easy fix; however, tennis nets are tougher to raise as there are no cranks at the courts to increase the metal cable tension required to raise the net back to its original height.

OK full disclosure; I am a tennis player. I have played pickleball and I do see its fun nature, but I am not currently playing and haven’t for a long time. Nevertheless, I feel for you pickleball players. You do need and deserve your own courts. Kudos to new Parks and Recreation Director Ture Nycum for explaining the current obstacles to creating pickleball courts and even more for asking for help in finding a suitable site.

Welcome to Durango, pickleballers. The tennis community has been trying to get more tennis courts for decades. Over time, the number of tennis courts has been reduced in the community. We used to have 12 courts at the college, six at Durango High School, two at Needham Elementary, two at Mason Center and two at Skyridge for a total of 24.

The six high school courts were originally lighted, but those lights haven’t worked for years amid confusion about who has responsibility for maintaining them. The 12 lost FLC courts took 20 years to be replaced and then by only four. We have lost the use of the two Needham courts. Courts at DHS (six), Mason Center (two) and Skyridge (two) have been well-maintained. So, we now have 14 total, of which four are lighted (FLC).

This loss of 10 courts is despite a growing tennis population as well. This is not meant to be overly argumentative, though I do love a good argument. It is intended more to explain some of Durango’s recreational history and possibly some tennis players’ defensive attitudes. It used to baffle me as to why neighboring communities such as Cortez and Farmington had better recreational facilities than we, despite Durango’s seemingly stronger community financial means. I have since concluded that Durango’s problem is also one of its strengths. We have such a terrific variety of athletes, interests and activities available to us that it is difficult for us all to come together in support of a few activities. We each advocate for and strongly defend our own sport interests.

Brian Blanchard’s recent letter to the editor suggested two potential sites for pickleball courts. One is at FLC near the existing tennis courts and the other is at a proposed master park at Three Springs. I suspect they will each encounter some of what I have mentioned above. The FLC site will conflict with the existing disc golf course, and the Three Springs site may encounter neighborhood noise objections. Nevertheless, they are both worth exploring.

Pickleball enthusiasts deserve pickleball courts. Patience may be required, as the rest of us have learned. Meanwhile at least you can play year-round indoors. I have one site idea that needs to be vetted further, but I hope you will be able to sleep better knowing that I am actively scouting potential sites for you so that we can all be active in peace and harmony. A rising tide lifts all boats.