By Steve Hubrecht
Local pickleball players have been pressing the District of Invermere to create dedicated outdoor pickleball courts for more than a year. And they may get their wish soon, although perhaps not in the location they most prefer.
The district is tentatively proposing converting one of the tennis courts near the Pynelogs Rotary Ball Park into pickleball courts.
There are three tennis courts there, which the district is planning on re-surfacing this year. In the process of putting down new asphalt, one of those tennis courts could be converted into four permanent pickleball courts.
The Invermere Pickleball Club began publicly making noise about getting some permanent outdoor pickleball courts in the district last May, when they turned out in force to an Invermere council meeting. (So many pickleballers came, in fact, that they formed the largest gallery at an Invermere council meeting in at least a decade.)
The club continued to put pressure on the district at various points throughout 2022, and eventually was rewarded for its efforts when the district included $80,000 “for pickleball” in its 2023 budget a month ago.
At the time, the district had no more details on just what that $80,000 would be used for, and pickleball club president Ray Schoepfer expressed disappointment that the funding seemed, in his opinion, to be little more than a line item without concrete plans.
But, as it turns out, Invermere does have a plan for the money and that plan was made clear in a recent report by Invermere director of public works Angela MacLean and Invermere planner Rory Hromadnik.
The report outlines two potential locations for permanent outdoor pickleball courts in Invermere: at Mount Nelson Athletic Park (MNAP) or at the tennis courts at the Pynelogs Rotary Ball Park.
The pickleball club has repeatedly pointed to MNAP as its favoured location.
But the district report notes that creating a new pickleball-only facility at MNAP is tricky, in part because the land is owned by Rocky Mountain School District 6, and in part because the park is already full of existing multi-use (tennis-pickleball-basketball) courts, a skatepark, a ball diamond, an exercise park, and soccer fields.
“There is no space to add new facilities and any changes to the existing facilities would need to be done in consultation with School District 6,” wrote MacLean and Hromadnik.
The three existing tennis courts by Pynelogs Rotary Ball Park are in poor condition and the district was already planning to (and has already budgeted to) resurface those courts this year.
Reconfiguring the courts to become two tennis courts and four pickleball courts would be relatively simple and relatively inexpensive compared with building new pickleball courts, outlined MacLean and Hromadnik.
Resurfacing the tennis courts will cost $130,000. Resurfacing and reconfiguring the courts into two tennis courts and four pickleball courts will cost $146,000 — a difference of just $16,000.
Building new pickleball courts, in contrast, at MNAP or elsewhere, would likely cost $150,000.
MacLean and Hromadnik also pointed out that reconfiguring the Pynelogs Rotary Ball Park courts for pickleball means those outdoor pickleball courts could be a reality later this calendar year. Building new ones elsewhere would mean it would not be possible to start construction in 2023.
“Those courts (at Pynelogs Rotary Ball Park) need to have work done anyway,” Invermere Mayor Al Miller told the Pioneer. “And it’s pretty full up at MNAP. It seems reasonable to do it there (at Pynelogs Rotary Ball Park).”
Miller acknowledged that in many communities, neighbours living close to outdoor pickleball courts have complained about the steady stream of “plink-plink-plink” noise associated with the sport.
“We realize we are close to homes (at Pynelogs Rotary Ball Park) and that is obviously a consideration,” said Miller. “Fitness is very important. But, yes, there is the noise (of pickleball). We also have trains and other things in that neighbourhood that make noise. Our discussions as council will include that and we’ll see where it goes.”
Will tennis players be okay with losing a court?
The district plans to hold information sessions with the pickleball club and with Pynelogs Rotary Ball Park tennis court users to get a better sense of where that balance may lie.
“As far as use of space, we’d be able to accommodate a lot more people overall by adding the pickleball courts. But we don’t want to take anything away from tennis, because there are a lot of people who do enjoy that sport,” said Miller.