The City Council this week approved an agreement with the Blair County Pickleball Club that will allow the group to begin an $ 85,000 transformation of two tennis courts at Garfield Park into six pickleball courts.
The work by contractor ACT CORP of Baltimore will begin soon and be completed by early June, according to club treasurer Bruce Leavens, who attended the council meeting.
The club has raised the money for the project from members and local businesses, after obtaining permission for the project from the Central Blair Recreation & Park Commission last May, after the commission posted the court to determine whether tennis players would object.
After completing the work, there will be far more pickleball players at Garfield than there ever would have been tennis players, said Hope Sheehan, who was at the tennis courts Tuesday evening, waiting for friends to arrive to play pickleball using temporary nets that club players have been setting up and taking down for the last couple of years.
At capacity, the six permanent courts will accommodate as many as 24 players at once – compared to a maximum of eight for tennis.
There are 154 club members, and they’ll be playing every day of the week at Garfield after the project is over, Leavens said.
The heaviest use will be during nice weather from 7:30 am to noon and from late afternoon into the evening, Leavens said.
Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the US, Sheehan said.
It’s a vehicle for healthy activity and easy socializing, and it’s accommodating to people of all skill levels, she said.
Many former tennis players have taken up the sport as they age, including Dave Berry, who arrived Tuesday a little after Sheehan to play.
Now 74, he started playing tennis in high school, with significant success.
“Pickleball is an answer to my prayers,” Berry said. It’s an easy one “Transfer of skills.”
After the cement for the posts sets up, ACT workers will lay down a leveling sealer, then several layers of special paint, according to Leavens.
Areas outside the courts will be red, areas in the back of the courts dark blue and areas closest to the net light blue, he said.
Although the club is paying for the project, the courts will remain the property of the city, according to the agreement.
Any time “The courts are not in use by the club,” they must be available for the public, according to the agreement.
The club will need to schedule its reserved use of the courts with the Rec Commission, according to the agreement.
The club will occupy all six courts only 25 percent of the time when members are playing, Leavens guessed.
The agreement is for five years, with automatic one-year renewals thereafter, unless either one of the parties decides to terminate – which can happen at any time, according to the agreement.
Termination requires 180 days’ notice.
The agreement relieves the city of liability for anything that happens in connection with the club’s use of the courts.
The club would need to obtain permission from the city for alterations subsequent to the completion of the upcoming project, according to the agreement.
Trees in the immediate vicinity of the court have been cut down in preparation for the project, including evergreens at one end that provided shade.
That was unfortunately necessary because the shade and the droppings from the trees have caused and would cause deterioration, Sheehan said.
She pointed out marks all over where divots due to moisture acting on droppings from the trees have been patched.
The courts “Were on the verge of disintegrating into uselessness,” Sheehan said.
“It had to be done if we’re earnest about making things last,” she said.
Eliminating the droppings and shade also eliminates slippery spots that frequently formed in areas near the evergreens, she said.
One advantage of the Garfield courts is their distance from homes and businesses, such that residents and patrons won’t be bothered by the thwacking noise of paddles on plastic balls and the balls bouncing off the court, Sheehan said.
In addition to approving the agreement, the council approved a $ 2,300 grant from the city’s Goodman Trust recreation fund for landscaping around the courts, Leavens said.
Fundraising continues to obtain money for fencing, lighting and a storage unit, according to the club’s application for the Goodman Trust grant.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.