BEACHWOOD, Ohio — It may be known as a sport for, well, retirees but pickleball has risen in popularity in every age group. Now, it is the fastest-growing sport in the country and that growth has municipalities working out ways to build courts to meet that growing demand.
Beachwood City Council unanimously approved sending out a bid for a $1.3 million project to add six new pickleball courts, among other recreational updates, to the city’s community center.
Mayor Justin Berns said pickleball was a part of his campaign platform.
“I’ve heard from lots and lots of residents that they wanted this,” he said. “During the election a year and a half ago, it was something I discussed and promised the community that we would construct these courts.”
In August, he introduced the proposed pickleball courts near the city’s aquatic center. It was set to open spring 2023 with a price tag of $500,000.
But after some discussion, the plan has expanded to not only pickleball but moving and upgrading the space for community gardens, adding volleyball courts and improving fencing to the tennis courts.
It is now estimated to cost $1.38 million dollars.
“It made sense to do those projects together,” he said. “We would’ve been at city council for at least 3 different projects, had we not done it the way we suggested to do it.”
He said combining it could possibly save the city money than doing the projects separately.
Councilman Mike Burkons said he supports and advocated for the original plan to just add pickleball courts, but questions why some of the aspects of the new plan are necessary.
“There’s another meeting where we’re told they had to abandon the original $500,000 plan, the opening of the courts are now delayed almost a full season and now they had to add $1,000,000 to the project, which 800 grand of that would be to relocate the community gardens,” he said.
He said he has never understood the reason relocating the gardens is necessary when he believes it could be done in-house, in the location they are in now, for significantly less.
“What I’m hearing a lot from residents is two years ago, we got rid of the two basketball courts and we decided to place the community gardens there and they’re furious that we’re spending 800 grand to make our very nice community gardens just a little bit nicer,” he said.
Mayor Berns said the gardens were temporarily installed on the basketball courts during the pandemic, so people could get outside.
“They’re on the basketball courts and they’re on asphalt. They do not have the proper drainage. We built boxes, put them on asphalt and the boxes are all rotting to the point where, at this point, we have dismantled those,” said Berns.
Burkons voted to send the pickleball and recreational center’s proposal out for bid but said the real vote on the plan is when the bids come in.
“It’s just, you know, using the money in a way makes sense,” he said.
Berns said they’re hopeful once the bid is closed, construction will begin in March, pickleball courts should open mid-summer, community gardens in the spring and volleyball courts late summer.
He thinks in the end, the additions and improvements will be worth it.
“Our number one goal is to have as many amenities as possible to our residents,” he said. “This is what makes Beachwood such a special place to live.”
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