Vail Town Council approves pickleball courts
• Pickleball is played on a court about 20 feet wide and 44 feet long.
• Players use paddles, not racquets, smaller than tennis racquets but smaller than ping-pong paddles.
• The balls are plastic, with holes, and travel about one-third the speed of a tennis ball.
• As of this year, there are more than 3,000 places to play pickleball in the U.S.
Source: USA Pickleball Association.
VAIL — Pickleball. The very name conjures images of a slightly frivolous activity. But a recent only-in-Vail controversy over where to play the sport also shows how recreation in town is evolving.
The Vail Town Council recently approved a plan that will put six pickleball courts, parking and new landscaping at a town-owned site near the Manor Vail Lodge and essentially across the street from Golden Peak. The project will cost roughly $1 million, paid for out of existing funds from the town’s real estate transfer tax. Work will begin in 2016.
The new complex will replace what’s there — one hard-surface tennis court and four pickleball courts.
The pickleball area at the site has grown in just a few years. Vail Recreation District Director Mike Ortiz told the council that the district, which operates town-owned recreation facilities, started with two pickleball courts at Golden Peak in 2012 after being approached by players.
“We hadn’t really heard of pickleball, so we tried two courts to see if there was interest,” Ortiz said.
The response was “overwhelming,” he said. That response led the district in 2014 to replace one of the two tennis courts at the site with four pickleball courts.
“Pickleball players are organized, they’re social — it’s really a welcoming group,” Ortiz said. “And it’s the right demographic for Vail. It’s players 55 and older — we’re serving the right people with this game.”
The decision to build pickleball courts has drawn fire from some nearby homeowners, who complain about the noise and the activity at the courts.
“We’re concerned about parking, about sanitation issues and about people changing (clothes) in their cars,” said George Tyler, an owner at the All Seasons condominiums and president of that property’s homeowners association. Turning four courts into six will simply add to the noise, Tyler said.
While Ortiz acknowledged that the sound from pickleball is different than tennis — pickleball uses paddles and plastic balls instead of racquets and felt-covered balls — town officials have conducted a noise study at the courts, and have determined that sound from the courts falls within the limits set by the town’s noise regulations.
The plan for the Golden Peak courts has also drawn some complaints about the loss of the hard-surface tennis court in the neighborhood.
Courtney Klein, a representative of the Rams Horn condos, told the council that guests are regularly sent to the tennis courts in the summer.
On the other hand, the recreation district operates eight clay courts at Ford Park, just a few minutes’ walk away from Golden Peak.
The clay-court tennis season is shorter than the season available on hard courts. On the other hand, renovations at Booth Creek Park will include two new hard courts. Those courts will be available by the fall of 2016.
But tennis isn’t as popular as it once was.
Bill Suarez, a member of the Vail Recreation District Board of Directors, said the tennis courts at Golden Peak had seen declining use over the years. The plans for pickleball are the response to demand.
“I understand that the people who live there have gotten used to what they’ve gotten (in terms of activity,” Suarez said. “But we try to be the recreation provider for the entire community,” Suarez said.
And, it seems, a growing number of residents and guests are enthusiastic about pickleball.
“It’s tennis for octogenarians,” resident John Snyder said at the meeting. “It’s really rejuvenated me — there are a lot of benefits of the sport for people my age.”
Donovan Park Courts?
While the town will build one new facility in 2016, pickleball in Vail may not be done growing.
Some residents opposed to the Golden Peak site recommended looking into putting courts at Donovan Park. Mayor Andy Daly, officiating his last meeting with the council, recommended spending some time and money on investigating other sites for courts.