Fairchild Park on the east side of San Antonio, Texas is busy… very busy. It’s not uncommon to have nearly 100 players waiting their turn at peak times.
Leave Your Paddle Handle-Up!
In the classic pickleball manner, players leave their paddles in a line along the court fencing. The paddle order denoting who is next to go on court. The custom is to place your paddle handle up to signify you’re part of the line.
It’s a melting pot of age groups, mostly seniors, but there are also plenty of younger players, students, and middle-aged couples.
As the San Antonio Report stated, until this week, the daily routine remained consistent, with the courts officially closing at approximately 8:30 p.m. Then, prior to departure, park personnel would direct the players toward the six after-hours tennis courts.
This arrangement didn’t suit a large contingent of players who arrived later in the early evening to avoid the scorching afternoon sun.
For several months, pickleball enthusiasts who frequented the courts at Fairchild Park endured the long waits and relatively early closing, which meant they spent more time watching than playing.
Finally reaching breaking points, a group of “pickleball activists” emerged, determined to address the situation. At least 20 different players, all regulars at the Fairchild Park courts, reached out to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Their request was clear: extend the court hours beyond 8:30 p.m., thereby granting access to all 18 pickleball courts and the 10 tennis courts for a longer duration.
Read more about the pickleball scene in San Antonio by clicking here.
The Efforts Bore Fruit
It took several weeks for the City of San Antonio to respond. Still, eventually, the collective’s efforts bore fruit, as Cindy Waddell, a resident of the East Side and the president of the San Antonio Pickleball Association, confirmed:
Now, individuals can partake in pickleball as early as 5 a.m., with the opportunity to play until 11 p.m.
And you better believe they take full advantage of this extended timeframe!
We have covered many other instances of town and city councils developing new pickleball facilities as the sport gains popularity. You can read them by clicking here.
“Back then, they opened the gates for us during COVID,” says Waddell. “We just played as much as we could to be outside and play safely with our family members. That’s kind of how it got started.”
Waddell recounted the neighborhood’s initial introduction to pickleball, which took place approximately eight years ago. At that time, the city began augmenting the number of pickleball courts, drawing dozens of enthusiasts who participated in free pickleball open plays, which were offered four times a week.
Lights Burning Brightly Until 11 p.m.
Connie Swann, the spokesperson for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, says the park used to adhere to a routine schedule, operating from 3:30 p.m. until either 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m., depending on the day of the week. Additionally, the courts were only accessible from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
Now, the park welcomes early risers at 5 a.m., and the lights burn brightly until 11 p.m.
Furthermore, the Parks and Recreation Department has announced plans to introduce more pickleball courts in District 5 at Monterrey Park:
“San Antonio Parks and Recreation shares the community’s excitement for pickleball. The expanded hours of operation will accommodate more pickleball players and opportunities for recreation.
“The Department strives to meet the evolving needs of our community, and we’re pleased to support the growth of racket sports in San Antonio.”
The Social Aspect
As stated at the beginning of the articles, the park attracts close to a hundred pickleball enthusiasts at a time, playing and enjoying the social aspect of the sport by chatting with neighbors and fellow San Antonio Pickleball Association members.
During bustling evenings, the two parking lots experience such a demand that they spill onto adjacent streets, a phenomenon noted by Jaime Rowan, a nearby resident who discovered pickleball during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Upon entering the parking lots, the distinctive pickleball sound of ball on paddle reverberates within the confines of the tennis courts.
“The sunsets there are gorgeous, especially when you’re on the lower courts,” says Rowan. “We’ll have the most beautiful sunsets with the downtown skyline behind us.”
The courts are situated far enough away from the closest housing for the noise not to be a problem, and, as Rowan points out, the “residents” of the cemetery that borders the park aren’t a concern either. As he puts it, “They don’t complain.”
The only matter outstanding now for the pickleball players at the park is how nice it would be to have somewhere comfortable to sit while they wait for court space!
San Antonio Pickleball Courts
Blossom Park, 15015 Heimer Road
Garza Park, 1450 Mira Vista
Fairchild Park, 1214 E. Crockett St.
Hamilton Community Center, 10700 Nacogdoches
Normoyle Park, 700 Culberson Ave.
Oak Haven Park, 16400 Parkstone
Pittman-Sullivan Park, 1101 Iowa St.
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