“Southeast Seattle Needs Outdoor Pickleball Courts Now: The Saga” – EPISODE 9

It is incumbent upon SPR to articulate why it is policy to preserve the interests of one recreational community over another


Nathan King expressed to Mayor Durkan his displeasure with the way the Seattle Parks department is treating Southeast Seattle pickleball players. The Parks Department replied that even though they already have or are about to line tennis courts for pickleball near many community centers that host pickleball programs, when it comes to Southeast Seattle community centers they cannot do the same.

Here is Nathan King’s latest reply, dated July 20.


To Christopher Williams, Deputy Superintendent
Cc. SMPA, Andy Sheffer Planning and Development Division Director

Greetings Christopher,

Thank you for this reply. I understand why SPR prefers to work with community groups and their representatives and I would guess most members of the pickleball community would prefer this as well. However, your response highlights many of the very reasons why I, and many others, have lost faith in this arrangement. I ask you consider the following:

  1. It is unreasonable to ask the public to funnel feedback through community organizations such as the SMPA when SPR has not in good faith included this organization fully and transparently in all phases of decision making related to equitable use of city courts. I demand the SMPA receives equal representation to that which the tennis community receives via the Amy Yee Tennis Center and its representatives. Otherwise, asking the public to not provide direct feedback to SPR is for the convenience of SPR only.
  2. You mentioned the 16 new courts planned for Southeast Seattle. The fact that you mention this as a gesture of SPR good faith effort to respond to community feedback is tone-deaf and emblematic of many of the issues being raised. A petition with almost 800 signatures addressed why the courts selected for dual-lines in Southeast Seattle are unacceptable and inequitable. By trumpeting this effort on your part reflects either that you, and/or SPR in general are ignorant to this vociferous public feedback, or have simply chosen to ignore it. Pickleball players are asking for quality, not just quantity.
  3. SPR fear of displacing tennis players is just unfair. It is incumbent upon SPR to articulate why it is policy to preserve the interests of one recreational community over another. Currently, tennis players have access to hundreds of tennis courts all around the city. These include the best faculties described as having lights, restrooms, parking newer surfaces, high court capacity, etc. Many of these courts are designated as “tennis only” courts by policy, or de facto owing to lack of pickleball court lines. The SPR plan to designate some courts for dual-lines is in itself inequitable since even these courts are lined in a manner that under utilizes the potential court capacity for pickleball, and uses diminished line color – again for the benefit of tennis. As a result of your desire to prevent “displacement” of tennis players, you have hundreds of displaced pickleball players every weekend crowding the few courts that exist while tennis courts sit empty.
  4. Equity. SPR policy believes it is okay to designate courts for pickleball that are being under utilized by tennis players. In fact, the pilot study even suggests that underutilization of courts be determined by “high instances of graffiti and vandalism.“ Once again, please articulate how you believe this is equitable? Why do you think these courts are underutilized by tennis players? Fair sharing of court facilities means EITHER dual-lining ALL courts in the city starting with the MOST desirable, OR equitably designating courts for either dedicated tennis or pickleball. The reason, I believe this is an equity issue is that USTA tennis, despite efforts to the contrary, has historically been a sport predominantly enjoyed by the most affluent and privileged segments of our city. This is apparent in the continued power and influence this recreational community has within SPR as there is no other way to explain why such a clear bias exists.
  5. Finally, you mentioned a community feedback process by the end of the summer. I will offer my input to my SMPA representatives to not participate in any further meetings with SPR until these core inequities are addressed. I will also advocate to my fellow pickleball community members to not participate in any public feedback sessions with SPR, as this would only be used to legitimize the practice of SPR to ignore public feedback and continue the practice of non-transparent and inequitable decisions making. Instead, I will advocate for legal action opportunities.

As a resident of Southeast Seattle, and individual member of the community, I ask that you address these concerns as a starting point to any plans moving forward.

Thank you.

Nathan King

To be continued…