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Pickleball debate packs house, stretches hours in Park City Council meeting

In this Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 photo, Del Teter competes in a game of pickleball at Sun City West senior community in Surprise, Ariz. A hybrid of tennis, badminton and table tennis, pickleball is played on a court a quarter the size of a tennis court, with hard rackets and a variety of whiffle ball. Created on the whim of a U.S. Congressman, pickleball has become a big hit in senior communities around the country, and is gaining steam with younger players and at schools, too. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Matt York/AP
Pickleball's popularity keeps growing, and with that is a desire for more local courts.

The city council was not scheduled to vote on anything pickleball-related, just discuss recreational facilities upgrades that could impact those who play.

And members of that group turned out in droves to weigh in on why the city needs more courts for the sport.

Somewhere around 90 people attended the council meeting, though not all were there to talk about pickleball.

City council member Tana Toly said the council welcomes the crowds.

“We want to definitely do something for pickleball," Toly said. "We know that it is very important to our community and it's very important to our residents. And so we want to ensure that that's top of priority. But there's also, we heard from people who curl, we heard from ice skaters, we heard from an array of different people who are very interested in recreation in our community. There was a big turnout and we appreciate it. We are all the feedback we get is how we make decisions in the communities though. It's phenomenal to see that many people passionate about recreation.”

The council discussed expanding facilities at Quinn’s Junction near the National Ability Center. One concern that cropped up was whether the noise of pickleball could be harmful to veterans and other clients of the NAC, a third of whom suffer from PTSD.

During the conversation, councilmembers Max Doilney and Becca Gerber criticized a guest editorial in the Park Record op-ed titled “Pickleballers demand equality now.”

Gerber said everything on the community’s recreation wish list would cost $43 million. She said that gave her pause as the community grapples with pressing problems like the lack of affordable housing. And Doilney questioned the appropriateness of calling for equality in athletic facilities during Black History Month.

Passions have run high on the subject, and Park City Municipal Recreation Director Ken Fisher said during the meeting that he had never seen his staff attacked the way they have been over the subject of pickleball courts.

Toly urged residents to keep the debate civil.

“We are all really really passionate about it as well and really want to find solutions and we just want to do this in cohesion and without attacking one another and so I do hope that the solutions come through cooperation and cohesiveness versus personal attacks,” she said.

Ultimately the council asked city staff to draft a request for proposal, or RFP, to look at potential designs for new facilities. And the city will explore putting a general obligation bond on the November ballot that if passed would provide funding for the community’s recreation wish list.