Despite a request to retain the Virgil courts for tennis, Niagara-on-the-Lake town council has decided to reconstruct them to provide six pickleball courts.
Representing the growing membership of the local pickleball club now using the badminton courts at the community centre, Case Bassie was at council Monday to ask councillors to approve staff recommendations to convert the tennis courts in the Virgil sports park for pickleball players.
At last week's committee-of-the-whole meeting, Sonja Schindeler of the NOTL Tennis Club requested the Virgil courts not be re-purposed for pickleball and suggested that both groups share the courts, which was one of the options town staff investigated. She said the tennis club is already short of court time to accommodate membership, and although there are two new new courts approved in town, losing the Virgil courts would only leave members where they are today.
But Bassie said pickleball has different lines and players would need to lower the nets each time the club uses the courts. He asked council to uphold their decision as committee-of-the-whole to dedicate the Virgil courts to pickleball.
The club regularly has eight hours a week at the community centre, he said, although on courts designed and marked for badminton, and their time is often reduced due to other events.
Some of their players have moved from tennis, racquetball and squash, and turned to pickleball in their senior years, so the sport “is not competing with the tennis community but complementing it with a different option,” Bassie said.
New outdoor courts would bring in new members, he said, and allow for special leagues for juniors, women, men and mixed doubles, as well as beginners' sessions and tournaments that would attract players from outside NOTL.
Town staff recommended dedicated pickleball courts rather than sharing between the two sports, citing confusion from two sets of lines for both sets of players. The two Virgil tennis courts could be converted to six pickleball courts within the current footprint, the town staff report says, and the courts will also help develop strategies of active living in the senior population, the report says. The $85,000 budgeted for the tennis courts will cover the conversion costs.
Council agreed, and construction is expected to begin in the fall – doing the work during the summer would jeopardize the safety of those using nearby baseball diamonds, the staff report said.