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Letter to the Editor

Pickleball deserves tennis-like support

A Longboat Key resident makes the case for more pickleball courts at Bayfront Park.

  • By
  • | 5:00 a.m. December 12, 2023
Jim Wolohan and Alice Green play pickleball at Bayfront Park Tuesday morning.
Jim Wolohan and Alice Green play pickleball at Bayfront Park Tuesday morning.
Photo by Lauren Tronstad
  • Longboat Key
  • Opinion
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Last year I participated in various town meetings and discussions regarding the increased popularity of pickleball on Longboat Key. I appeared with two other retiree advocates to provide perspective on the growth of the sport and the challenges we faced with the limited number of courts. 

The basic message was the sport was growing and that more courts were needed. That remains true today. 

Pickleball in the U.S. has grown in one year by more than 150%; 37 million people played the sport last year. 

We have more resident and visitor players coming. At this point, I believe there are more people playing and wanting to play pickleball than tennis on our Key. 

I am respectful of the long history of tennis on Longboat Key and am supportive of our Public Tennis Center. That said, I believe the Town Commission and town manager have the opportunity to act now, not years from now, to address the lack of courts at Bayfront Park. 

There is good news for all who use Bayfront Park. Our town manager and director of Public Works have created and secured a substantial amount of new parking. Well done! 

But can’t we do better? A year ago, I suggested we should repurpose the asphalt tennis courts into six additional permanent full-time pickleball courts, giving our community nine public pickleball courts. 

These asphalt tennis courts are rarely used. 

Why should dozens of people be forced to sit by empty or rarely used asphalt courts? 

Even more insulting, while waiting to play pickleball,  participants see tennis pros sneak on to provide private tennis lessons. This practice is prohibited, but occurs nonetheless. 

Why can’t pickleball residents and visitors get a modicum of the support that our “sister” sport tennis gets? 

In fiscal year 2020, about $80,000 was budgeted for pickleball improvements, but only half the money was spent. The balance was credited back to the general fund. 

Why can’t we celebrate this activity that requires no administrative oversight, no scheduling issues and has small capital requirements with minimal maintenance costs compared to the town’s support for the Public Tennis Center? 

The allocation of monetary and real estate assets is significantly out of balance as to the levels of support the town  provides to pickleball participants versus tennis players. 

I encourage the town to allocate $100,000 of the proceeds from the St. Regis settlement, which is designated for parks, toward the immediate construction of six permanent pickleball courts.

— Dave Levine, Longboat Key


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