Longboat Key courts made debut in February and closed in March.
The weather conditions on Monday morning were quintessential for Longboat Key: warm temperatures, plenty of sunshine and blue skies.
It marked the first time since March 22 that the public was allowed to use the town’s pickleball courts at Bayfront Park. The park’s courts had been closed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re just down here vacationing and saw that they opened today,” said Sue Burns, who was visiting from the Cincinnati, Ohio, area.
Burns and her sister Peggy Theiss were among the first players when the courts opened Monday morning. The park’s hard-court tennis facilities, basketball courts and playgrounds also reopened as part of Town Manager Tom Harmer’s latest executive order.
“We weren’t even sure what time they were gonna open, so we didn’t get here too early,” Theiss said.
Coming to Longboat Key has become a tradition for the sisters.
“We’ve been visiting here since in 1977, and started buying condos in 2005,” Burns said. “It’s like our favorite place come.”
Burns and Theiss took up a doubles match against Bob Gordon and Nina Landgraf, whom they didn’t know before Monday morning.
“My preference is to play doubles,” Burns said. “That’s the thing about pickleball, everybody’s friendly and [you can] take up a game with whoever is here.”
Burns said she was surprised Bayfont Park wasn’t more crowded on Monday morning. A father and son were using the basketball court while a few others milled around the park.
“This is probably the most beautiful pickleball court anywhere,” Theiss said.
All four players — Burns, Theiss, Gordon and Landgraf — said they were happy pickleball play has resumed.
“It's the first day being open. I’ve monitored it every day for 90 days or 80 days,” Gordon said. “It feels fantastic. [It’s] such a beautiful facility, and it’s just great to be out playing again.”
Gordon said he’s still been able to play pickleball during the pandemic at Longboat Key Club Moorings. The Key Club has also kept its tennis facilities and golf courses open with several social-distancing measures.
The pickleball complex at Bayfront Park has been closed longer than it's been open. Completed earlier this year, the key making it all work was a 15-foot concrete addition to the north end of the park. After it was poured and cured, a new surface was laid down across the whole L-shaped slab, while also fixing some cracks and exposed seams at the same time.
The net loss was half of the basketball court and one 10-foot high backboard and hoop. Total cost of the project was about $50,000, far lower than the six-figure estimates for building new courts from scratch.
For now, people can use two of the three pickleball new courts at Bayfront Park to abide by social-distancing guidelines. The net on the middle court was down. Only one of the courts was in use on Monday morning.
“The risk seems low to me. We don’t kiss anymore,” Gordon joked.
“Those are the tennis players,” Landgraf quipped.