There can never be too many pickleball courts — or at least that’s the sentiment of the sport’s fans on Longboat Key. And they've begun to make it known to the Town Commission.
As the busy season has ramped up, so has the demand for use of the town’s pickleball courts.
Tuesday morning at around 10:30 a.m. about 25 people were waiting for their next turn to use Bayfront Park's pickleball courts.
Even so, it was a common sentiment that such a crowd was milder than it would have been earlier in the morning.
"We wait upwards of 30 minutes sometimes for a 10-minute game," Jim Wolohan said.
Wolohan has been playing for seven years and has seen firsthand the growth in popularity the sport has seen in recent years.
"The sport is really exploding," he said.
Rebecca Hopf, Noelle Sheehan and Joan Bennett were waiting their turn Tuesday morning, but said the wait isn't so bad because of all the people they have gotten to meet.
"It's a very social sport," Hopf said. "It's quick to learn and anyone can play."
Over the last few Town Commission meetings, fans of pickleball have taken the opportunity for general public comment to ask for aid in the ever-present problem at the Bayfront Park courts.
As resident Dave Levine told commissioners, parking is nonexistent as upwards of 40 people wait their turn to use the pickleball courts at Bayfront Park.
The park currently has five courts available, which allows for a maximum 20 people to play the sport at any given time.
However, the adjacent tennis courts typically remain empty. Residents have been asking commissioners to consider allowing for the temporary use of the tennis courts as pickleball courts. Avid supporters of the sport have even rallied their own funding to provide new, rollaway nets to be used on the tennis courts, should it be allowed.
Levine further presented an idea for a protocol that could be used for pickleball players seeking use of the tennis courts. Pickleball players would be informed of the court’s primary use and notified that if a group arrives wanting to play tennis, they must exit the court, move aside the nets and go to the front of the line of those waiting for the designated pickleball courts.
“I understand that is stretching our imagination in terms of how we could treat each other with civility and friendship, but I think we can do it,” he said.
The issue has begged another concern for commissioners. Is the demand for pickleball keeping others who may want to take a walk or bring grandchildren to the playground from enjoying the area? The answer is most likely yes.
“My biggest concern is that the park is just getting overrun and there being no parking for anybody else,” Commissioner Mike Haycock said. “Our dog-lovers can’t use the park anymore because they can’t park anywhere; our beach-goers can’t use the beach anymore because they can’t park…there is just no parking for anybody.”
Commissioners came to a consensus to pick up the discussion again at their Feb. 21 workshop.