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Longboat Key Wednesday, Sep. 25, 2019 3 weeks ago

Oh, what a pickle

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Longboat commissioners should not be so addlepated over giving up two tennis courts for six pickleball courts. Why do so few occasional tennis players deserve free tennis courts to begin with?
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

The cliche is too much to resist: What a pickle.

That’s the Longboat Key Town Commission’s debate about where and how to accommodate the growing number of pickleball enthusiasts.

But the “pickle” for commissioners is what to do with respect to the two free tennis courts at Bayfront Park. If those courts are converted to six pickleball courts, commissioners apparently are addlepated about finding a place to keep two free tennis courts.

This is so Longboat. 

The issue mushroomed to such a level that Longboat Key Public Works Director Isaac Brownman presented commissioners with five possible locations for the tennis courts:

  • Next to the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center;
  • Joan M. Durante Park;
  • Town property between Spanish Main and Emerald Harbor;
  • Bayfront Park open space next to the existing courts; and
  • Hideaway Bay’s two unused tennis courts.

But in typical fashion, commissioners couldn’t reach an agreement last week and directed the town staff to do more research.

One piece of research that might help would be data on how often the free tennis courts are used. Do the same for the free basketball court at Bayfront Park as well.

Free tennis courts and the basketball court are “nice to have” public amenities. But they hardly seem justifiable for the small number of users — especially when the demand for pickleball far exceeds that for the two tennis courts and basketball court.

It really doesn’t seem to be that much of a “pickle.” Isn’t the obvious: Respond to market demand?

Start by converting the basketball court and one tennis court to pickleball courts. Leave one tennis court. 

Watch what happens. Soon enough, you’ll know whether the demand is great enough to eliminate the second tennis court for more pickleball courts. From what we have seen around the country, that sport soon will dwarf tennis among retirees. 

Meantime, for those few, few occasional tennis players, c’mon. Why do they deserve free courts? Besides, it’s not going to bankrupt them to pay $13 for an hour and a half of tennis at the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center — a facility that features clay courts, a clubhouse, restrooms, refreshments and great people to make new friends. 

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