Tennis, pickleball players vie for Glenwood rec center court space
City Council may intervene to try to head off a brewing dispute over racket court time between tennis and pickleball players at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
At the same time, the more-serious tennis players say they are reluctant to use courts at two city parks that for the past several years have had a special, less costly and less maintenance-intensive turf surface.
Those courts, located at Veltus and Sayre parks, are also frequented by a growing contingent of soccer players who use them for short-court style soccer during the warmer months.
Several tennis and pickleball advocates spoke before City Council Thursday night asking the city to address the court use and reservation policy at the Community Center. They would also like the city to consider resurfacing the park courts, and maybe find a location for a dedicated pickleball facility.
“There seems to be this idea that there’s some tension between the pickleball and tennis players, but that’s not really the case,” tennis player Kate McRaith said.
Rather, the issue is a Community Center policy reserving one of the four outdoor tennis courts for pickleball during certain hours of the week. During peak times of the year, that means tennis players are left waiting, she said.
Jon Zalinski, who coaches the Glenwood Springs High School girls tennis team in the spring, said the team has had to encroach on the already limited time at the Community Center courts because, by his claim and that of other competitive players, the park courts are not usable for competition-level tennis.
“We used to practice on the Sayre Park courts because they are close to the school, but last year we decided not to play there because we don’t use that kind of surface in competition,” Zalinski said.
“Nobody really uses those courts for tennis, because of the surface,” he said.
Longtime Glenwood tennis instructor Sue Geist likened it to playing hockey on a rink with ice that’s too soft, or playing baseball on a field with 4-inch tall grass.
“You lose the enjoyment level,” she said.
Mayor Mike Gamba prefaced the discussion by saying council had already asked city staff, including Parks and Recreation Director Tom Barnes, to explore some solutions and report back to council at a future work session.
Barnes said in a follow-up interview that the decision to resurface the park tennis courts with turf, and the Community Center policy to accommodate the growing sport of pickleball, were both vetted with input from the two user groups.
Pickleball is a smaller court game using a shorter net and large paddles instead of rackets, and a hard plastic ball with holes similar to a whiffle ball. It has grown in popularity in recent years, especially among older players who prefer the slower-paced game.
Three of the courts at the Community Center that are situated side by side are used predominantly for tennis, Barnes said, while the fourth, standalone court is reserved part of the time for pickleball.
That seemed logical, Barnes said, because using the single court for pickleball avoided direct conflicts with tennis players. The court is specially striped, and it accommodates three pickleball courts set up sideways within a single tennis court space, he said.
“If pickleball isn’t being played during their designated time, tennis players can go to that court,” Barnes said.
During the cooler months, the indoor gymnasium is also reserved during certain times for pickleball leagues and pickup games.
“We want these folks to work collaboratively to share the courts we have,” Barnes said.
Resurfacing of the park tennis courts was done in 2008 at Veltus and then in 2010 at Sayre after a trial period and input from tennis players, and even the U.S. Tennis Association.
“We made sure this was a surface that was going to work for them before we did those improvements,” he said.
It’s also been a cost saver for the city, because the traditional asphalt and post-tension concrete courts with their special painted surface cost more to maintain, Barnes added.
The turf surface is approved for play by both the USTA and the Colorado High School Activities Association, Barnes said.
The surface has proven popular with soccer players, too. So the city decided to allow them use of the park facilities after 7:30 p.m., Barnes said. Soccer players even play a hybrid “soccer-tennis” game using the tennis nets, he said.
“It would be awesome if we could build more courts for everyone, but the reality is there is a lot of expense associated with that,” he said.
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