AP NEWS

More pickleball courts needed in Lake Havasu City

March 4, 2019 GMT

Six years ago, the Lake Havasu city council recognized the growing popularity of pickleball in the country and particularly in Arizona.

It decided to capitalize on the large economic and recreational potential the sport offered the community by spending $30,000 to develop a site plan for 16 outdoor pickleball courts at Dick Samp Park.

Other Arizona communities had demonstrated the economic payback of building courts when they held regional and national pickleball tournaments that attracted hundreds of out-of-town players to their cities.

“Build it and they will come.” Communities also benefitted when the courts they built attracted retired pickleball enthusiasts who bought or rented property and returned year after year as snowbirds. “Build it and they will come.”

Two years ago, the city built it — the first four of eight courts it committed to construct. Quickly, those who came made heavy use of the courts.

Seating and sun- and wind-screening was subsequently added through funds raised by The Lake Havasu City Pickleball Association (LHCPBA)

Court usage has grown so much that players waiting in line to play feel like they’re at a DMV office.

The photo below illustrates a common occurrence at the Dick Samp Park pickleball courts: the paddles of 22 people are lined up waiting to take turns with the 16 people already filling the courts. Some days, the wait is even longer, more frustrating.

So why the crowds? Answer: pickleball’s phenomenal national growth. More than 3.1 million people played pickleball in the country last year, according to the Sport and Fitness Industry Association, a 12 percent increase over the previous year. Seventy-five percent of them are 55 and older. And last year there were nearly 7,000 places to play in the USA, increasing at about 85 new places per month.

In Lake Havasu, the number of players registered with the LHCPBA has grown more than 10 times, to nearly 400 since 2013 when the city recognized the impending wave.

To accommodate new players, the LHCPBA has been conducting weekly novice pickleball lessons at the courts since November. This has attracted 13-15 novice-level players each week. Once players advance beyond the novice level, the association continues to provide higher skill-level training and organized competition several times each week at the park. The courts are filled with players getting a one- to two-hour workout each session.

All of this activity creates a log jam at Dick Samp Park. Its pickleball courts are public and should not be monopolized by LHCPBA organized activities.

Therefore, the association is now having to cancel some organized activities to accommodate players who just show up for open play.

The solution? Build more courts — Start with the additional four the city anticipated building when it built the first four two years ago.

The LHCPBA is not only advocating for city funding for the project, it is putting its money where its mouth is. To date the LHCPBA has raised $60,000 to contribute to this solution.

The cost for the project should be lower than the cost for the first four courts, which were built by a Phoenix-area contractor. Local contractors should have a significant advantage over out-of-town labor.

The Lake Havasu City Pickleball Association is serious in its desire to work with the city to accomplish this solution. We all recognize the recreational attraction that pickleball brings to a community and the economic benefits local businesses receive. If the city council can see it clear to provide funding in this upcoming budget planning process, the Association is prepared to defray a great deal of the total cost of building four more courts at Dick Samp Park. Let’s get it done.

David Rossing is president of the Lake Havasu City Pickleball Association.