SMPA Meets with Seattle Parks’ New Superintendent

Last month, SMPA met with Seattle Parks' Superintendent AP Diaz. Curious about what happened? Read on!

On April 12th, 2023, representatives of your Seattle Metro Pickleball Association (SMPA) met with A.P. Diaz, Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), and members of his staff. This meeting was a first step in helping Mr. Diaz, who has been in his role since September 29th, 2022, to better understand the big issues and frustrations facing the pickleball community.

Below you will find SMPA’s presentation that started the meeting, followed by our notes of the conversation that followed the presentation.

In all, SMPA presented Mr. Diaz with 5 requested actions:

  • Appoint or hire individuals with pickleball expertise and knowledge of its culture to participate in all decision-making processes that involve policy and resources that pertain to the sport.
  • Abolish the 2:1 court ratio, and revisit all legacy policies that subvert pickleball culture.
  • Better balance tennis and pickleball needs in SPR’s budget to be more in line with growing public demand.
  • Form a task force in conjunction with SMPA focused on building dedicated courts at Magnuson Park that can attract regional and national events.
  • Schedule a follow-up discussion and visit with Green Lake Pickleball on the Pickleball Hub concept.

Reading through the meeting notes below you might get the sense that Mr. Diaz is supportive of working with SMPA to provide the pickleball community with more courts and more places to play. We got that sense too in the meeting, and we certainly have optimism that Mr. Diaz and Seattle Parks will be true to that sentiment and follow up the good dialogue with action.  

Big Issues Facing the Pickleball Community

The meeting started with SMPA president, Frank Chiappone presenting SMPA\’s point of view on the current state of pickleball at Seattle Parks\’ outdoor public courts, including the big issues and frustrations facing the Seattle pickleball community. You can scroll through the presentation below or download it if you prefer.

Discussion Notes

The presentation was followed by a short discussion, summarized as bullet points below:

AP Diaz (Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation):

  • Smooth presentation.
  • We agree with you on all the statistics about pickleball.
  • Agrees on the need for more lights on outdoor courts.
  • Appreciates SMPA’s advocacy (“I completely get it”)
  • SPR staff is leaning more and more into pickleball. No need to overcome that.
  • Is convinced that pickleball is a tremendously popular sport.
  • Knows that pickleball is appealing not only to aging tennis players, but also to younger people who have never played tennis and are falling in love with the sport because it is fast and quick, and very social.
  • Diaz went to visit Green Lake when he was first named superintendent. Noticed the long line of cars pulling into the parking lot and wondered if there was some kind of feeding program going on to explain the huge line of cars. Realized it was pickleball players.
  • Has seen the Green Lake pickleball courts, the stacking system. Talked with players. It was great.
  • SPR’s responsibility is to serve the public in a variety of activities. There is a need to do more.
  • Wants to take some of the points of the presentation, go through them with SPR staff. If what SMPA is asking is making the user experience better, if they make SPR’s operation easier, if they make the community happy, and SPR can implement them reasonably, SPR is happy to follow up.
  • Wants to see if SPR can easily fix the Maple Leaf pickleball courts problems SMPA reported.
  • Wants to replicate the Laurelhurst model, as a beautiful dedicated pickleball court. Acknowledges that we need locations with more than one court.
  • Wants to look at non-traditional outdoor spaces such as Magnuson (Frog Pond) parking lot, and Magnuson hangars.
  • This will not be the end of our conversation.
  • This is important. Excited to learn more.

Andy Sheffer (Deputy Superintendent of Operations, Seattle Parks and Recreation):

  • SPR very optimistic that the PPA tournament will take place at Amy Yee
  • Very pleased at PPA’s offer to resurface the courts. SPR had wanted to resurface these courts for a long time.

AP Diaz:

  • SPR will use its communication team to promote both the Metro Classic and the PPA tournaments.
  • After the tournaments, it will be hard for anyone (including SPR) to say that there is no good reason to find ways to support similar events in the future.

Peter Seitel (Green Lake Pickleball):

  • Will you address the five asks at the end of the presentation?

AP Diaz:

  • Yes. They all make sense. Wants to study them, align with what SPR has in the works. None of the asks seem unreasonable. For all sports, at some point SPR becomes constrained by capacity and by space. Diaz is proponent of non-traditional use of space, of allocating underserved (might have meant to say “underused”?) property, and of public-private partnerships.
  • When talking about revitalizing downtown neighborhoods, conversations revolve around schools, safety, lights, etc.  Pickleball often finds its way in these conversations as well.
  • His dream is to have a world class lighted pickleball facility in the downtown neighborhood, without being constrained by noise or nighttime.

Andy Sheffer:

  • Seattle City Lights gave SPR a substantial rebate on LED lights for tennis courts which made the recent light upgrade possible.

Frank Chiappone (President, Seattle Metro Pickleball Association):

  • Danyal, are you our point of contact?

Danyal Lotfi (Community Engagement Advisor, Seattle Parks and Recreation):

  • Yes. Was just recently brought on in this role. Still in orientation phase. Still gathering information, trying to find his footing. Has a team that supports him.

AP Diaz:

  • This is the first conversation of many.
  • Excited to host the PPA tournament.
  • Has arranged to have kids from Community Centers attend the PPA tournament.
  • Will evaluate SMPA proposals and figure out a time for another meeting.
  • SPR might do some more community engagement. SPR gets frequently contacted by pickleball players. Diaz wants to be responsive.
  • At the end of the day, Diaz believes there is always common ground. Pickleball players want more access to pickleball facilities, and to be able to thrive in health and wellness through pickleball. SPR’s job is to ensure people have the opportunity to unleash their passions and be healthy and have fun. We are a healthy fun city. We are on board with you. Thank you for your advocacy.