The Athens Arts, Parks and Recreation Department, or APRD, request to the city council to allocate $250,000 to build new tennis and pickleball courts was referred to the city’s services committee and security, or CSSC, due to an increase in expected costs. , but the project is still ongoing.
The project currently includes the construction of two tennis courts and four pickleball courts. The construction of the tennis and pickleball courts was originally expected to cost $250,000, but at the March 7 city council meeting, Athens Municipal Services director of security Andy Stone announced the total cost would rise. at around $375,000.
The increase in the cost estimate was due to the amount of preparatory and preparatory work that would need to be done at the construction site under consideration, which is located west of East Park Drive, Stone said. Inflation for construction goods and services also played a role in the rise in the estimate.
Once the updated estimate was shared with City Council members, it was sent back to the CSSC for further review.
Micah McCarey, D-At Large, presented the original ordinance for the pickleball and tennis courts at the Feb. 21 council meeting. Despite his approval of the original construction price estimate of $250,000, rising costs convinced McCarey to support returning the order to the CSSC.
“When you have so many community members with different interests and ideas about what should be prioritized, it’s a balancing act,” McCarey said. “I think it would be really disappointing for a lot of people if we put all our resources into pickleball and didn’t have enough to fix tennis courts, for example.”
The APRD is currently reassessing the initial plans to find options that would reduce the price estimate.
Currently, there is no fixed location for the courts, said Katharine Ann Jordan, director of the APRD. However, the land on East Park Drive would have the most space for a number of tennis and pickleball courts.
The exact configuration of the courts may change if the APRD’s advisory board decides that a smaller number of courts would be the best option to cut costs, Jordan said.
Building the pickleball courts would allow for more recreational activities for people of all ages, said Greg Lavelle, the U.S. Ambassador for the Southern Ohio Pickleball District.
“Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the United States, and we currently have no dedicated outdoor pickleball courts, other than the two that are painted on the very old and decrepit tennis courts behind the Rec Center,” Lavelle said. “Building new pickleball courts dedicated to (pickleball) and not shared on a tennis court would be absolutely wonderful.”
Ohio University has a total of eight painted pickleball courts on the indoor and outdoor tennis courts, which members of the community sometimes use. However, players would like the city of Athens to recognize the recreational and financial benefits that pickleball has to offer.
“There are a lot of small towns and mid-sized towns that are taking advantage of the pickleball boom and hosting tournaments,” said Woodser Rouse, a local pickleball player. “In order to be part of this type of scene, at any time in the future, Athens would certainly have to have a dedicated courtyard space that could host an event like this.”
Rouse said he hopes the city considers the growing number of pickleball players in the community when deciding on final plans for the courts.
The city is aware of the pickleball community’s anticipation for the courts and is committed to seeing it through, Stone said.
Although plans are still pending as to the number of courts and their location, Stone said local pickleball players may be able to use the new courts in the spring of 2023.