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City Council looks to add funding for tennis court resurfacing, pickleball facility

SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council on Tuesday asked City Manager Lane Bailey to reevaluate the 2019-20 fiscal year budget to potentially provide additional funding for the Parks and Recreation Department to resurface tennis courts and add a pickleball facility.

Tuesday’s vote comes after the City Council approved a consent agenda item at its Jan. 2 meeting for a donation of $25,000 to the Parks and Recreation for pickleball courts. The donation was approved unanimously in August by the Parks and Rec Advisory Board.

But conversion of the tennis court to pickleball gained prominence after dozens of tennis and pickleball players spoke during public-comment periods in recent City Council meetings, including at Tuesday’s.

Tennis players offered concerns about the lack of resurfacing of the City Park tennis courts,  which led to deterioration, that there were private donors and confusion caused by temporary pickleball court lines on tennis courts.

Pickleball players said the sport is becoming more popular and, therefore, the need for a dedicated place to play pickleball is growing.

Currently, Parks and Recreation has six tennis courts, nine temporary pickleball courts and no permanent pickleball courts.

Nick Aceves, the parks and recreation director, presented to the council the process that the department has gone through.

“Parks and Rec is no longer just basketball and football,” Aceves said. “It is now trendy. Pickleball is a trend and it is increasing every year.”

He said as Parks and Recreation is going through the Master Plan process. Pickleball was one of the most popular items mentioned when it was asked what citizens wanted to see brought to Salisbury.

Aceves said he did not want the lack of resurfacing of City Park tennis courts to seem like Salisbury was forgetting about tennis, but the department is trying to maximize their facilities and dollar as much as possible.

Aceves presented three options to council: moving forward with the donation to convert to permanent pickleball courts, resurfacing the current tennis courts and building a stand alone pickleball facility or not moving forward with the City Park conversion or a new facility.

Councilman Brian Miller said Parks and Recreation been significantly impacted by a reduction of resources and is trying to keep up. Miller added that he has seen the passion of both tennis players and pickleball players and also the growth of the pickleball in Salisbury.

“This has proven to me is we need to have some way of solving this that allows us to create a need for both sports and for the growth of this sport in a way that make sense,” Miller said.

Aceves said they ask pickleball players to supply their own equipment, which is uncommon.

“We don’t ask the kids to bring a basketball rim and hook it up and play,” he said. “We don’t ask tennis players to bring their own net. We ask pickleball players to bring their own equipment.”

Miller asked Bailey to look at the impact of providing money to have resurfacing of the tennis courts and the pickleball facility as the City Council goes into the budget session.

Mayor Al Heggins agreed that the city should explore that option as well.

The resurfacing of the tennis courts is about $60,000. A pickleball facility at Civic Center would be about $100,000 without lighting.

Mayor Pro Tem David Post was one of the donors and said he does not apologize for his donation for the pickle ball court.

Miller and Councilwoman Karen Alexander both commended Post for investing in the community.

Alexander said those should look at Post as an example of giving to the community.

Post commented how pickleball has become a part of the community. He started to play after being introduced to the sport at Citizens Academy. He had played tennis for many years but had to give it up after needing a hip replacement. Post said pickleball is popular with people his age and it is an inviting sport.

Bailey said he would look at the budget to present a proposal at the June 11 budget workshop.

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