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Opinion
East County Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019 2 months ago

Have you voiced your hopes for Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch?

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Pickleball definitely is coming, but your opinion could form the way the park is built.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

So you might be wondering if Charlie Hunsicker plays pickleball.

The director of Parks and Natural Resources for Manatee County is on record as saying pickleball courts will be among the first items constructed on the county's new parks land adjacent to the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch.

Sounds like a conspiracy to me.

Sure, pickleball is an out-of-control freight train of popularity, running through community after community, crushing any adversary when its comes to competition for public funds. But do we really expect this to be more than a Jarts' fad?

Jay Heater

Perhaps comparing pickleball to Jarts is a bit of a stretch since it's hard to justify, in retrospect, arming children with, basically, arrows and then telling them to toss them toward a target which is surrounded by the opposing players. Astoundingly dumb, but it's the concept we should be considering.

There was a time when it seemed half the homes in America had Jarts in the garage, right next to the croquet set. Played any croquet lately?

How about tetherball? I'm sure we've all walked by a tetherball setup, and smacked that ball a few times, watching the rope wrap around the pole. But be honest, did you ever really play a game of tetherball against someone? Those tetherball manufacturers sure had us fooled. Back it my day, it seemed like every school had one of those. Unfortunately, they were too short to turn into flagpoles.

Will pickleball suffer a similar demise? Shucks, I don't know.

What I do know is that Hunsicker isn't pushing pickleball down our throats because he can't find court space on Saturday mornings. He isn't walking around wearing "I (heart) Pickleball" shirts. He is just doing his job.

Will pickleball be our flip phone of 1996, our Betamax of 1975? Unlike those, it might have a long, long shelf life.

Hunsicker isn't in a position to dispute the sport's longevity. He is trying to give the residents — the taxpayers — what they want. It appears that could be as big as a 32-court facility. I wouldn't worry too much, if it doesn't work out, we could always turn it into an obstacle course.

And for those pickleball fanatics among us, please don't think I am trying to knock anyone who has become enamored with what has been a healthy, senior-friendly activity. I'm just trying to make the point of "speak up and you shall be heard."

Pickleball lovers have united and relayed their hope to the county of a major racquet center in Lakewood Ranch. Have you done the same?

"These are concept plans and they are just that," said Hunsicker, who is going to schedule a few more roundtable discussions to quiz the public on what is the best way to use this park land. But he also notes that Manatee County wants to have a master plan for the land in place "in the next few months."

Hunsicker suggests that any groups hoping to have their own scratches itched should go to the commissioners' meeting and speak during the public forum session. If you don't voice your hope for a few softball fields, or a concert venue, or horseshoe pits, then don't be surprised if some or all of those are left out.

Then you will be facing a new reality.

It will be time to buy a pickleball paddle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

, Manatee County's director of parks and natural resources,

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