Approximately 100 pickleball enthusiasts gathered at a recreation center gym in Northeast Washington on Wednesday evening, eager to understand the plans of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation regarding their beloved sport.
The community sought increased access – more courts, extended court hours, and broader opportunities for people to engage in pickleball.
Turkey Thicket Recreation Center
Dubbed a “Pickleball Summit,” the gathering at Turkey Thicket Recreation Center on Michigan Avenue, Washington, D.C., was expecting to see some of these requests become reality.
However, the officials clarified that the $750,000 allocated for pickleball in the 2024 D.C. budget had just been received on October 1. Consequently, studies will now ensue to determine locations for additional courts, aiming to supplement the existing 58 courts across the District, serving at least 1,500 players based on agency records.
The objective, as highlighted in a presentation by D.C. Parks, revolves around a data-driven strategy to expand pickleball sites citywide while considering the diverse needs of court users.
Acting D.C. Parks director Thennie Freeman emphasized inclusivity as he spoke to Washington Post reporter, Justin Wm. Moyer: “We want to create opportunities for everyone,” she said.
However, concerns were raised by members of the pickleball community. Eduardo Perez, representing Mount Pleasant Village, wasn’t happy:
“I am dismayed. There is nothing here short-term about doing things right away,” he said.
Eileen Dougherty from Washington D.C. Pickleball highlighted the prolonged wait for action despite the summit being proposed over a year ago. She also pointed out that only 10 of the city’s 58 courts were exclusively for pickleball, while the rest were hybrid courts with limited availability.
“I think it feels too slow-moving,” she said.
Increased Community Involvement
Despite assurances from Freeman about increased community involvement in future plans, attendees complained about a lack of immediate solutions.
Lisa Jenkins from Ward 7 underscored the issue of equity, emphasizing the scarcity of indoor playing spaces east of the Anacostia River.
“We always get left behind. I don’t want us to get left behind, ” Jenkins said.
The call for more pickleball resources coincides with a nationwide surge in the sport’s popularity. USA Pickleball officials noted a significant increase in registered courts and facilities across the country, estimating substantial financial investments for court construction.
The high demand for pickleball across all age groups has caused scheduling conflicts, especially on shared tennis and basketball courts, where only one ball can be used at a time.
Members of the community expressed concerns about fair access to courts. D. Fox, from the D.C. league Queer Pickleball, highlighted the game’s inclusive nature, calling it “gender expansive.” Fox also emphasized its social impact during a time when human interaction was sought after post-pandemic lockdowns.
“Paving The Way”
While Freeman mentioned identifying new pickleball sites by early spring, concerns about immediate remedies and equitable access remained among the community.
“You can’t take it too seriously. “We try to make sure joy is the main piece. We’re excited about new investment,” she said. “We’re leading and paving the way.”
Freeman said new pickleball sites in the District would be identified by early spring.
Enoch Thompson, a D.C. Parks employee and pickleball instructor, emphasized the values imparted through the sport and the joy in playing. He also added, “You’ve got to be patient to play.”
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