In this newsletter
- Kirkland opens three dedicated pickleball courts
- Edmonds adds four pickleball courts
- Seattle adds four pickleball courts
- Seattle Publishes Pickleball Pilot Study Report
- Upcoming Seattle Indoor Pickleball Changes
- Seattle Parks Statement
- 5000 hours of pickleball
Kirkland opens three dedicated pickleball courts
The city of Kirkland has converted the Everest Park tennis court into three dedicated pickleball courts. Pickleball players found this new facility is already well used.
If you already play on those new dedicate courts, please send a thank you note to Kirkland’s Park Manager Jason Filan (firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Edmonds adds four pickleball courts
The city of Edmonds has resurfaced the two tennis courts at Seaview Park. Each tennis court has lines for two pickleball courts. The Edmonds Parks department will provide four portable nets on site every year from March to October.
If you already play on those new courts, please send a thank you note to Edmonds’s Recreation Manager Todd Cort (email@example.com.)
Seattle adds four pickleball courts
The city of Seattle has resurfaced the two tennis courts at Walt Hundley Playfield, next to the High Point Community Center. Each tennis court has lines for two pickleball courts.
If you want to join other players there, visit Playtime Scheduler.
If you already play on those new courts, please send a thank you note to Seattle’s pickleball feedback email address (firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Seattle Publishes Pickleball Pilot Study Report
The Seattle Parks Department’s outdoor pickleball pilot project took place from October 2018 to October 2019. While the outdoor pilot project was ongoing, the Parks department denied any request for outdoor pickleball expansion. Since October 2019, we have all been waiting for a report.
As of August 27, 2019, it is finally here and it not only talks about outdoor pickleball but about indoor pickleball as well.
Upcoming Seattle Indoor Pickleball Changes
Community Center Scheduling
To understand what is going on with Seattle indoor pickleball this fall, you need a crash course in Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) community center scheduling. Reviewing the Pilot Program Report published by SPR 8/27/2019 is also instructive.
The community centers have hours posted on their front doors and on their web sites. These are the hours that the centers are open to the general public and anyone can walk in and use the facilities within reason.
People or organizations can rent community center rooms or gyms even when the community centers are officially closed to the general public. You not only pay for the room, but also for the people who will keep part of the center open just for you. That is how Smash Pickleball runs their evening and weekend pickleball leagues out of some of the community centers. That is also why you might have observed that a community center gym is occupied even though the community center is officially closed.
Until 2017, Community Centers were also open for “paid programming” during non-public hours. A building monitor was paid to let people in for the paid activity. We understand that before 2017, the Parks department used to collect 60 to 80 thousand dollars a year from drop-in pickleball fees. Some of that money was used to pay the building monitors.
Paid programming becomes unpaid programming
In 2017, most drop-in activities, including pickleball, became free and therefore switched from being “paid programming” to being “unpaid programming”.
This caused problems for drop-in activities that happened outside of the public hours. A building monitor still needed to be paid to be present in the building, but the activities no longer generated any money. The Parks department found some creative ways to keep the non-public hours programming going and happy users never knew what was going on. Unfortunately, this was not sustainable. The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department now no longer budgets money for non-public hours activities.
The Problem: SPR’s perspective
Free activities that are taking place outside of community center public hours are not generating any revenue and are costing money to pay the people who monitor the community center building while these activities are taking place. Therefore, beginning this Fall the Parks Department has chosen to no longer support programming that takes place during non-public hours.
If you want to know how we got here, read the “Community Center Scheduling” section above.
How does this change affect pickleball?
About 25% of pickleball hours happened during non-public hours in Spring 2019 according to the Pickleball Pilot Study Report.
This affects pickleball in the following locations:
- Van Asselt
You might wonder why these locations and not others. Part of it is luck of the draw. There are actually three tiers of community centers. The top tiers are open to the public about 70 hours a week. The second-tier ones are open 40 to 45 hours per week. The third-tier ones are open 25 to 30 hours a week. The fewer public hours a community center has, the more likely the pickleball hours will fall outside of the public hours.
What is the Seattle Parks Department doing about it?
The Seattle Parks proposes four solutions and leaves it to the community center directors to choose which one to implement for their own center. Here are the four solutions:
1. Move the non-public pickleball hours to public hours.
This might mean moving a to a different day, a different time slot or both.
The Miller Community Center director has already decided to move their Monday morning pickleball hours to Monday afternoon.
2. Create a paid pickleball activity during the non-public hours.
That would be a lot like signing up for a class, but instead you would be signing up for pickleball play. You would pre-pay a fixed fee to be allowed to play pickleball during a specific time slot during a specific season. For instance, you would pay at the beginning of the fall to be able to come play pickleball on Mondays from 10 to noon during the fall at the Bob Hassan Community Center. Who will set the fees within SPR is still under consideration but it will reflect costs of opening and staffing community center while pickleball is going on.
3. Have the pickleball community rent the gym to organize paid pickleball
Coordinate a gym rental program for the Pickleball community to determine a schedule and locations where players collectively cover the room rental rate and Building Monitor payroll. If free morning play is unavailable at the CC near you, SPR has offered to make morning play (or any other time) available outside of operating hours at times agreeable to individual CC Managers on a pay for play basis under which the costs of a staff member assigned to work during non public hours are passed on to those who want to play. We are hoping to negotiate reasonable fees with SPR and will keep you advised as we learn more.
4. Cancel the non-public pickleball hours
This is not likely to happen. The “Pickleball Pilot Study Report” recommends: “maintain historic Pickleball drop-in schedules”. The deputy superintendent also said at a recent public meeting that total pickleball hours will be maintained.
5. Recent discussions with SPR
After further discussions this week, Justin has advised that he and Tim Pretare will be working on a convenient and reasonably priced court rental program for the Pickleball community that will allow gym rental for Pickleball during non public hours when there are no conflicting activities. SPR hopes to publish this model in early October.
What else might the Seattle Parks Department do about it?
The Pickleball Pilot Study Report also mentions the following possible solutions:
1. Adjust Community Center operating hours to include historic Pickleball schedule
This would need to be done to cover not just pickleball but all other activities that have been happening outside of public hours. For this to happen a new source of money would need to be found. Further discussion with SPR are merited in this area.
2. Submit a request to the Superintendent to offer a pay-to-play Pickleball pilot program
This is unlikely to happen for several reasons. First, in order to avoid discriminating against person unable to pay, the Parks superintendent made all the drop-in activities free in 2017. Park is presently unwilling to revisit this policy. Second, it would raise equity questions by treating pickleball differently from all the other sports?
What about pre-2017 style pay-as-you-go?
Couldn’t we just pay a few dollars when we enter the community center to play pickleball? This is contrary to the “all drop-in activities are free” initiative of 2017. Nonetheless using community center cards could still be an option. However there are some obstacles. If the Seattle Parks Department makes an exception for pickleball, it might have to start making exceptions for everyone else, thereby undermining the original policy. To our knowledge no final decision on this topic has yet been made by SPR.
When will these changes take effect?
We had been warned that things would change by January 1, 2020, but it turns that these changes will already be in effect for pickleball as of September 3, 2019.
How does this affect me?
It depends upon where you play.
At the Miller Community Center, Monday pickleball will be moved to the afternoon. Friday morning pickleball stays in the morning even those are non-public hours because the center will be monitored for some other activity that has been allowed to keep operating at that time. If you don’t like this solution, reread the “What is the Seattle Parks Department doing about it?” section above, get the local pickleball community to agree on a different solution and go talk to the Community Center director.
The West Seattle (Delridge, Hiawatha, High Point) pickleball community somehow managed to partner with the local community center directors to minimize the impact of the new rules, and there will not be any major changes there.
At the Ravenna Community Center, the changes hadn’t been settled on yet as of August 23rd. The Community Center director is working on it. If you favor one of the solutions in the “What is the Seattle Parks Department doing about it?” section above, make sure you let the Community Center director know about it.
At the Van Asselt Community Center, things were up in the air as of August 23rd. If you favor one of the solutions in the “What is the Seattle Parks Department doing about it?” section above, make sure you let the Community Center director know about it.
Seattle Parks Statement
The Seattle Metro Pickleball Association has received the following communication from Justin Cutler who is Director of the Recreation Division of Seattle’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
This week Seattle Parks and Recreation put out a press release sharing our report on the 2018 Pickleball Pilot. This report relays the successes the department has had in expanding pickleball access by adding 24 multiuse courts, providing nets and equipment at many community centers, and providing over 5,000 annual hours across 69 indoor pickleball courts at community centers.
We also used this release to recognize the growing popularity of pickleball and the increased usage of the courts and indoor hours provided. The report recommends additional multi-use restriping and proposes possible options for some tennis court conversion for dedicated pickleball courts.
Finally the report describes how community centers can work with the pickleball community to continue to expand hours. As a drop-in program offering, SPR is proud to provide pickleball throughout our city at no cost to our community. This is in-line with our mission to use community centers to provide opportunities for all to recreate and be healthy without additional barriers of affordability and access.
And yet, we hear that additional pickleball hours are still desired. We must weight this request in the same way that we weigh all other community recreation requests that are above our core offerings. We are encouraging our pickleball community to utilize the community center off hour rental system. This would allow additional hours beyond the free drop-in programs, it would ensure that the department is funded to staff the building during these hours, and it would not displace any other core programs.
We look forward to taking in these requests, and would even welcome a city-wide proposal of rental hours across centers.
The Seattle Metro Pickleball Association has requested an explanation and data regarding the 5000 hours the Seattle Parks Department claims to have set aside for indoor Pickleball so we can better understand how SPR calculates the hours and specifically what hours from what community centers that statement is based upon. We question whether this time related to community centers where and when there is a demand. More to follow.