Why Is SPR Choosing to Treat Southeast Seattle Differently From the Rest of the City?

On July 15, the Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) Department’s Deputy Superintendent Christopher Williams wrote that (1) it is SPR’s policy to add pickleball lines only to the tennis courts that historically get low usage by tennis players and (2) that adding pickleball court lines to the tennis courts located next to the Jefferson and Rainier Community Centers would constitute a “change of use to parks or park facilities” which would require an opaque and cumbersome review process.

Today, Seattle Metro Pickleball Association President Frank Chiappone sent the following reply.

From: Frank Chiappone
Sent: Sunday, August 1, 2021 4:33 PM
To: Williams, Christopher ; NATHAN KING
Cc: PKS_Info <>; Sheffer, Andy; SMPA.Board.Of.Directors
Subject: RE: Recreational Equity SE Seattle [pickleball]

Dear Deputy Superintendent Williams,

Thank you for seeking input from the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association (SMPA) regarding the Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) department’s plan to finally add pickleball court lines to some of the outdoor tennis courts in Southeast Seattle (south of Capitol Hill and East of I-5). 

SMPA is delighted to hear that after adding lines for over 40 outdoor pickleball courts on existing tennis courts in 10 different locations outside of Southeast Seattle, SPR is now getting close to start painting its first pickleball court lines on some of Southeast Seattle’s outdoor tennis courts.

SMPA fully supports SPR’s policy to make significant changes to facility programming only with broad public engagement and support. 

Given that:

  • SPR has already added pickleball lines on tennis courts near existing community centers that host pickleball player communities, such as Delridge, High Point, Miller, Bitter Lake, South Park and Green Lake;
  • SPR has already scheduled the work to add pickleball lines on tennis courts near the Magnolia Community Center which also hosts an active pickleball player community;
  • SPR has recommended in its Pickleball Pilot Study Report that pickleball lines be added on tennis courts near the Meadowbrook Community Center which hosts pickleball players;
  • SPR has recommended in its Pickleball Pilot Study Report that pickleball lines be added on tennis courts near Southeast Seattle’s Rainier Community Center which hosts the largest and most diverse pickleball player community in the entire city;
  • The Pickleball Pilot Study Report has been approved by the Superintendent;
  • SPR’s Strategic Plan states that SPR will “get the most out of our current parks and facilities by converting single-use spaces into multi-functional spaces in order to serve more people within our system, including converting tennis courts into multi-sport courts, …”;
  • SPR’s Strategic Plan has been reviewed and approved by the Board of Park Commissioners, the City Council’s Public Assets and Native Communities Committee, and probably the Seattle Council;
  • Southeast Seattle’s Rainier, Jefferson and Van Asselt Community Centers host large, vibrant, and diverse pickleball player communities

SPR’s recently announced plan of adding pickleball court lines on Southeast Seattle tennis courts that are located nowhere near the community centers hosting the local pickleball communities is departing from the de facto policy of locating most pickleball court lines near the community centers that host pickleball players. We must question why SPR is choosing to treat Southeast Seattle differently from the rest of the city.  

You say that “the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners needs to weigh in on any change of use to parks or park facilities”. We would like to point out that SPR has already painted pickleball court lines on over 20 tennis courts, and is planning to paint lines on at least 14 more, without seeking Board of Park Commissioners approval.

We are concerned with SPR’s most recent focus on allowing pickleball only on tennis courts that see little usage by tennis players, without considering why some tennis courts see more usage than others.  High usage correlates with court features such as:

  • the current state of the court surface
  • the proximity of available parking lots which is even more important for pickleball players than tennis players since pickleball players often need to bring their own net,
  • water fountain availability,
  • restroom availability,
  • perceived safety,
  • light availability for evening play,
  • etc.

By allowing pickleball players only on the courts least used by tennis players, you are effectively restricting pickleball players to the least desirable courts and reserving the most desirable courts for tennis players. This is discrimination. We welcome any opportunity to speak directly to the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners, Seattle Parks and Recreation, City Council or any other civic leader that can help us immediately address and correct these concerns.  

Consequently, given the precedent set with other pickleball court lining projects already finished, currently scheduled, or recommended by SPR in other parts of the city, we request that SPR add pickleball court lines to the tennis courts at Rainier Playfield as recommended in SPR’s Pickleball Pilot Study Report and at one of the two of the following locations:

  • Jefferson Park
  • Rainier Beach Playfield


Frank Chiappone
SMPA President