WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — In continuing to pursue grant funding for a pickleball expansion, the Town of Wrightsville Beach has scheduled a public meeting for Wednesday evening. Both pickleballers and tennis players will have the opportunity to weigh in on the future of Wrightsville Beach Park.
The Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, if awarded, would tackle around $400,000 worth of costs for five dedicated pickleball courts, lighting for all new and existing courts, and other amenities — half of the total project budget.
Town leaders have given parks staff the green light to move forward on the application as more players than ever make use of the park’s courts for pickleball. The public meeting is the next required stage in the grant-application process, with a May deadline to apply.
Tennis players and pickleballers currently share space on the four tennis courts of Wrightsville Beach Park. Three of the courts are lined for the wiffle-ball-and-paddle sport, and players can use portable nets to transform a tennis court into two pickleball courts (the town website says net rental is free for town locals and between $5 and $10 for non-residents outside of open play hours).
With five new courts, the town could offer space for the burgeoning sport and presumably ease tensions on the existing courts where players of both games wait to use the same space.
When the long-term proposal and grant opportunity were first floated at public meetings, the pickleball lobby had stronger representation. Jim Chaffins of Wrightsville Beach Pickleball Group also helped convince town leaders to take an additional action: At the time existing courts are resurfaced — an approved operation that has been delayed by weather — one of the four tennis courts will be semi-permanently converted into four, smaller courts, exclusively used for pickleball. At public meetings, Chaffins has cited huge numbers of participants in the town’s open play program, and the need for more space.
Under the terms of the arrangement, the re-striped tennis court will be used as four pickleball courts until the longer-term project — through the grant application — is completed. At that point the court would be re-striped again for tennis. Chaffins asked the board of aldermen at a recent meeting to retain the four re-striped courts even after the completion of the larger project but was rebuffed by the board.
The tennis lobby has not been as vocal as their pickleball counterparts at previous public meetings, but concerns over the plan are expected to be voiced publicly Wednesday. An online petition to “Save Wrightsville Beach Tennis Courts” calls the pickleball striping on the tennis courts “confusing and distracting.”
“As a tennis community here at Wrightsville Beach, we would like to work with the Pickleball Club and Town of Wrightsville Beach to come to a satisfactory and permanent solution to adding and accommodating a new sport to our town’s park facility,” according to the petition.
Part of the long-term project includes lighting installations for all the courts, opening up possibilities for later play. The Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, administered by N.C. State Parks, would also help fund a new multi-use path by the courts, a gazebo and landscaping.
Readers can learn more about the plan and details about how to attend the Wednesday meeting here.
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