West Vancouver will have dedicated outdoor pickleball courts this year, after municipal council backtracked on their decision to padlock the current ones at 29th Street at the end of April.
Council voted Jan. 24 to close the Dundarave courts and not provide a temporary replacement while plans go ahead to build permanent ones in Hugo Ray Park. Staff had prepared options for temporary courts to be installed McKechnie Park in West Bay and Normanby Park in the upper reaches of the British Properties, as well as Ambleside Park.
The sport is growing in popularity, particularly with seniors, but it quickly draws complaints from anyone in earshot of an outdoor court because of the loud “pop” made every time a ball is struck.
After getting their hands whacked with a pickleball paddle, five councillors returned on Feb. 7, having had a change of heart.
Council voted unanimously to direct staff to install up to four temporary pickleball courts on the northern sports court at Normanby Park, as soon as possible, and convert them back to tennis as soon as permanent courts are ready.
“We feel fantastic that the West Vancouver council followed through with the commitment that they had made in writing a number of times,” said West Van Players spokesman Ed Pielak. “We’re very happy with that.”
At the council meeting, Coun. Nora Gambioli rebuked her fellow council members for flip-flopping on a motion that was virtually identical to her motion they voted down last month. Only she and Mayor Mary-Ann Booth supported the Normanby Park option at the time.
“I'm glad to see No. 1 that some councillors have finally done their homework. That homework should have been done before two weeks ago, not later, but at least it's finally been done,” she said. “I would suggest, because of all the talk that some people have about being efficient with staff time and taxpayers money, this is really not an efficient process.”
Coun. Sharon Thompson said her vote to close the current dedicated courts was based on the hope that permanent courts could be established at Hugo Ray by this summer – something staff say is not possible taking into account the time needed for engineering studies as well as First Nations and public consultation.
“I'd be surprised if it is done even by 2023,” she said. “With weather and everything, I would actually almost bet it'd be 2024.”
But using an existing tennis court to solve the pickleball players’ problem only creates a new one with their racket-wielding cousins.
Marcus Shapiro, vice-president of North Shore Tennis Society, warned the decision could “cause considerable community upset and friction,” not only with Normanby Park’s neighbours but also with the tennis players who regularly use the court. Beyond that, Shapiro chastised council for doing a 180 without warning tennis players, “flying contrary to a spirit of openness and community consultation.”
According to staff, there are 32 current public tennis courts in the district – more per capita than any other municipality in the Lower Mainland. Four of them are shared with pickleball lines painted on the courts.
Coun. Bill Soprovich said he decided to change his vote after visiting the Normanby Park site with some pickleball players. He suggested everyone adopt some kindergarten philosophy.
“I think this is a logical place based on what I saw and heard,” he said. “I tell you, they're a fun-loving bunch of people. They really are. ... Happiness in sharing is the mode that I'm looking at.”