Opposition from tennis players prompts city to pause City Park plans

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 2, 2019

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — After tennis and pickleball players have spoken out about a transition planned for courts at City Park, council members will hear a presentation from Parks and Recreation Director Nick Aceves on the issue Tuesday.

The 6 p.m. meeting will be at City Hall, 217 S. Main St.

The Parks and Recreation Department added pickleball lines to two courts at City Park in 2017. Last fall, the department received $25,000 from multiple donors for six pickleball and tennis courts. The donation was approved unanimously by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board in November. Then, in January, the City Council approved a budget amendment that included the $25,000 donation.

Dozens of both tennis and pickleball players have addressed the council during public-comment periods about the plan to convert more tennis courts for pickleball. Tennis players argued that the courts, which are in need of resurfacing, are being taken over by pickleball, causing confusion for tennis players and making the courts ineligible for U.S. Tennis Association accreditation.

Pickleball players say the growth of the sport shows the need for more courts. Many say they have to wait in line to play at City Park. They also have to bring their own equipment, including a net. 

Others took issue with the private donors. They include Mayor Pro Tem David Post and his brother, Jon Post, who serves on the Parks and Rec advisory board.

Aceves said his department has solicited bids for conversion of the courts for pickleball, but the work was delayed after complaints from tennis players.

He said Parks and Rec makes such changes often to maximize its facilities and prioritize its use of money.

Aceves said resurfacing the tennis courts would cost $50,000 to $60,000. He said there are grants available from the U.S. Tennis Association, but the city would have match them and the resurfacing would have to include youth lines as well as adult lines.

Aceves said he recognizes the growing interest in pickleball. His department is doing a study, and pickleball is the most requested sport.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Aceves will discuss the process of converting courts for pickleball and offer some options for the council to consider.

“I would love separate facilities,” he said. “I can’t afford $50,000. I’m trying to do the best due diligence.”

In other business:

• City Manager Lane Bailey will present a resolution for the council’s consideration to seek state funding for the Empire Hotel restoration.

• The council will have a public hearing about the proposed 2019-20 budget.

• A public hearing will be held to hear comments on the 2019 fair housing impediments report.

• The council will consider an action plan and budget for the use of $454,219 in funding from the Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

• The council will hear a presentation on the city’s recycling practices and how to improve them.