HARRISONBURG — More than 30 people gathered with the Harrisonburg parks and recreation advisory commission Monday to discuss plans to convert the two tennis courts at Morrison Park to pickleball courts.
Following the discussion, the commission unanimously approved moving forward with the plan.
Parks and Recreation Department staff have been looking into the potential change for about a year, according to Brian Mancini, assistant director.
“One of the areas that we pegged as a target to change to better recreation was [Morrison] Park,” Mancini said in an interview prior to the meeting. “We were trying to find the underutilized facilities in the city, and the tennis court usage there is almost nonexistent.”
Staff observed the park from June 21 to July 17.
According to a presentation by Mancini Monday night, there were around 35 games of pickleball played and seven games of tennis.
He said staff is bouncing off design ideas and aren’t sure whether there will be four or six courts, “but we are leaning towards four.”
According to Mancini, pickleball courts are popular and are “exploding all over the place.”
Pickleball is a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong and can be played outdoors or indoors with a badminton-sized court and modified tennis net.
The official pickleball sport’s website, www.usapa.org, said pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, by three dads whose kids were bored with their usual summertime activities.
The name was created after one of the father's dogs, whose name was Pickles, because he would chase the ball and run off with it.
Mancini said the sport isn’t just a fad in Harrisonburg. It’s becoming a trend.
“We want to make the pickleball court complex a place where you can have tournaments and people coming in from out of town to use it and be proud of it,” he said. “There have been many people wanting a real pickleball tennis court because so many people have become interested in the sport over the past few years here.”
Due to the city not having pickleball courts, Morrison Park and Eastover courts have lines painted over the tennis court lines “so they get blurred so it’s not optimal because then tennis and pickleball players get confused from the mixed lines.”
He said just because pickleball courts will be added and some tennis courts taken away does not mean all the tennis courts will be taken away.
“We would like to spruce up Eastover and Purcell Park’s tennis courts,” he told the audience Monday.
Mancini said he anticipates the transformation to be completed by mid-March.
“It’s only going to take about a week to do,” Mancini said. “It’s not a big project — just some resurfacing and painting and stuff.”
Rotary International will be fully funding the project and donated around $46,000 for the project. Mancini anticipates the project to cost around $45,000.
The money will be put toward the four courts, new pickleball nets, new surfacing, a windscreen with city branding on it, black vinyl-coated fencing to separate the courts and benches.
If four courts are built instead of six, Mancini said there will be extra funds to have bleachers put in.
One community member asked Mancini if there was any way to also have indoor pickleball somewhere.
Mancini said there aren’t many facilities available for indoor pickleball, and “that would be more of a shared-use facility thing we would have to look into.”
Another community member voiced concern with just having four courts instead of six.
“If we are doing tournaments, four courts won’t be enough,” city resident Maria Isabel Pigrau said. “We will need six.”
Another city resident, Tony Bopp, said there are a lot of recreational pickleball players as well as tournament players.
“For those of us who just like to play recreationally, we would like to see six courts,” Bopp said.
Mancini said having four courts wouldn’t be just for tournament play. “It would be for your comfort as well," he said.
“If we get enough traction then we can look into adding more courts somewhere else,” he said. “If we don’t end up having enough courts with just those four courts, that’s a good problem to have, but we have to start somewhere.”
The community is still able to submit comments regarding the project to city staff. To submit comments regarding the project, send them via email to Parks-CustomerService@harrisonburgva.gov.
Comments are due by 4 p.m. on Friday.