Wednesday, May 25, 2022

To meet pickleball demand, county poses $80K replacement of Arrowhead Park tennis courts

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Arrowhead Park’s duo tennis courts could soon be resurfaced, re-equipped and replaced for six pickleball games to go on at once, pending an $80,000 request from the New Hanover County parks department.

Within the next budget, which would take effect in July, parks staff is requesting the allocation to make up for a “lack of dedicated pickleball courts in the county.” The sport has skyrocketed into popularity, especially among the older populations who use it for exercise and socializing.

“Addition of park facilities provides opportunities for citizens to engage in active and passive recreational, social, educational, and cultural activities,” according to the funding request. “Parks play a vital role in overall health and wellness of the community. There are several neighborhoods in the area that provide entry-level housing.”

Players told Port City Daily Northern Regional Park is one of the few venues where one can readily find an open, dedicated pickleball amenities in New Hanover County. There are six pickleball courts at the Castle Hayne park.

Tennis courts at Veterans Park are lined for pickleball games as well, but those surfaces are sometimes taken by the nearby middle and high schools’ programs. Cape Fear Pickleball Club former president Kevin Chandler said the scheduling conflicts caused some contention in the past. Also, at both Veterans Park and the city’s Robert Strange Park, players must retrieve and set up the nets for each session.

“Then at the end when we’re done playing, we have to reverse it,” player Marcia Easton said. “Putting them together, taking them apart causes a lot of wear and tear on the nets.”

Easton is a member of Cape Fear Pickleball Club’s Permanent Court Committee, which is advocating for perpetual facilities in the middle and southern parts of the county. Since forming in 2015, the entire pickleball club has grown from 50 to 500 members.

About a dozen of the organization’s players regularly use Arrowhead Park as their court of choice, but the group must compromise with tennis nets that are taller than a regulation pickleball setup, according to Chandler and Easton.

“That’s not ideal, and also the net is vastly too wide, which also affects the way you play the game,” Chandler said.

In his pitches to local officials, Chandler emphasizes that more courts present tournament opportunities with the potential to bring in tourism dollars, and the club also raises money for nonprofits with fundraisers for the Parkinson’s program at the YMCA and the domestic violence shelter.

Last year, funding to dedicate pickleball courts at Arrowhead Park was requested in the budget cycle but did not make it past final cuts. If it goes through, dependent upon commissioners’ approval, this year’s funding would cover the cost of patching cracks and resurfacing and installing pickleball lines, netting and fencing.

Wrightsville Beach especially has seen heightened demand for pickleball courts and requests to swap out its tennis facilities. The town is pursuing a state-administered Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant to fund a $400,000, five-court expansion at its park. In the meantime, it divided one of the four tennis courts into four pickleball courts, an initiative that has caused friction between tennis and pickleball fans in the beach town.

One man is planning to make a business out of the sport on 8 acres at 5000 N. College Rd. Merrette Moore’s vision includes 23 courts, including nine that are covered, a fast-casual restaurant, bar and kids’ play zone. A necessary rezoning for the property is expected to receive approval in June, at which point the project could proceed.

READ MORE: Pickleball park planned for College Road


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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at alexandria@localdailymedia.com or on Twitter @alexsands_

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