Athletes playing one of the nation’s fastest growing sports may soon have a dedicated place to play in Johnson City.
Johnson City Commissioners voted Thursday to issue a request for proposals to convert the four tennis courts at Memorial Park Community Center, 510 Bert St., into 12 pickleball courts.
“We’ve had a huge increase in our pickleball players,” said Debbie Fogle, senior director of services. “We mainly have more pickleball players than tennis players. I see very few tennis players playing tennis on these courts.
The courts’ existing footprint will remain, but will be re-oriented to face Bert Street. Three pickleball courts will be created on each of the existing tennis courts.
The lighting will remain, but the city will resurface the courts, reline them and install permanent pickleball nets.
Fogle expects conversion work to begin in the spring, and the overall cost of the project could be around $100,000. This money is already available in a reserve account, she said, and would not present an additional cost to the city.
Fogle said the recent increase in the number of pickleball players is a national phenomenon. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the United States. There are approximately 4.2 million gamers in the country.
Pickleball has been especially popular among older people, Fogle said, but young adults and children are now embracing the sport.
Fogle estimated that on a monthly basis, the community center will see 10 or fewer tennis players visiting the courts. During the same period, pickleball players visited the courts hundreds of times.
Pickleball differs from tennis in several ways. The serve, for example, is done underhand rather than overhand. The racket and court are also smaller.
The sport, according to USA Pickleball, combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It can be played indoors or outdoors and doubles or singles.
Ashe Street Courthouse Renovation
Johnson City Commissioners on Thursday approved an interlocal agreement with Washington County that outlines respective responsibilities for the rehabilitation of the former Ashe Street Courthouse, 401 Ashe St.
The Washington County Commission will also vote on the deal.
The city received $5 million from Governor Bill Lee’s budget to renovate the building into a center for economic and entrepreneurial development. This funding must be exhausted by June 30, 2022.
“That’s why you’re seeing a lot of stuff coming in very quickly, and I hope you continue to see bills and updates coming in very quickly,” City Manager Pete Peterson told commissioners. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been challenged to spend $5 million in 10 months, but we’re going to do it.”
Peterson expects the building to be ready for use in the summer or fall of 2022.
In order to meet the strict deadlines of the project, the city will carry out all the work and the labor necessary for the renovation of the building. To that end, commissioners on Thursday approved a contract with BurWil Construction Company to undertake the rehabilitation. The contractor will work with Clark Nexsen Architects to design and build the project.
Facilities Management Directory Randy Trivette said the work will include restoring the building to a safe, code-compliant state.
Because the building has been vacant for so long, Trivette said, there are issues with the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Crews will also make repairs to the interior and exterior of the structure, reconfigure the interior to align with planned programming, and ensure the building complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. .
“We really want to preserve the grand nature of this building as much as possible with very minimal modifications to the interior,” Peterson said.
He added that the building will serve as the eastern anchor for the recently rehabilitated West Walnut Street, an approximately $33 million project designed to stimulate commercial activity along the route.
“We felt it was essential for the West Walnut Street project to preserve this courthouse and put it to good use and do something that would come back to ETSU so that you can strengthen this relationship throughout. hallway,” Peterson said. .