Warsaw Park Board hears request for Pickleball Courts

A newcomer to Warsaw’s Park Board meeting Monday might have walked away with the impression that the same-old same-old is not acceptable.

In less than an hour, the parks and recreation board heard several proposals that received words of support and other updates that point to a parks program that continues to evolve in little ways.

First, pickleball.

Representatives of Pickleball Phanatics requested the city consider converting one of the tennis courts at Kelly Park to accommodate four permanent pickleball courts that would include posts for nets and a new painted surface.

The pickleball league already plays indoor games at the City County Athletic Complex and outdoor games at Kelly Park. The group started at the Pete Thorn Center gym years ago and also used the armory.

Believed by some to be the fastest-growing recreational sport, pickleball is much like tennis and pingpong, but uses what looks like a larger paddle and a smaller net.

The league has a mailing list of more than 70 players, and some games attract upward of 20 to 30 people, said Mike Metzger, an organizer for the group.

Metzger said the league started about six years ago.

Park board President Steve Haines expressed interest in the idea, but pointed out they have no money set aside in 2018 for such projects.

Parks Superintendent Larry Plummer acknowledged its popularity.

“I think there is a demand for it. Whether we have the right facilities for it or not, that remains to be seen,” Plummer said.

He said one of the things the park board will look at is whether it is a fad or here to stay.

“Down the road, that might be something to look at (as) a facility,” he said.

The park board also adjusted its skate park rules to include scooters, which are elongated skateboards with a tall handlebar.

Recreation Director Sheila Wieringa proposed the change, saying it could open the door to younger users.

The board approved the change after a few moments of discussion.

More interest in the skate park next year would build upon an already strong 2017 in which attendance rose dramatically.

The city tracks attendance by the number of waivers signed by anyone who uses Mantis Park.

Last year, the park had 92 waivers, compared to 210 this year. Last year, the park had 305 visits, compared to 957 this year, Wieringa said.

“We had more rain days, but still tripled the visits,” she said.

Plummer credited the change to more programming and better promotions, including some through social media.

Meanwhile, the park is developing a sledding hill at Kelly Park on the city’s south side.

The idea had been on the back burner until G&G Hauling and Excavating agreed to help.

G&G has been working on a city-related construction project nearby and agreed to begin trucking loads of dirt to Kelly Park instead of back to the company site on the other side of the city.

The dirt will be formed into a sledding hill and will eventually also serve as part of an amphitheater with pavilion space.

The agreement saves the company driving time and the city gets 7,800 cubic yards of dirt that might otherwise cost about  $150,000, Plummer said.

So far, the mound is about 15 feet tall. The hill will grow until it is upward of 21 feet.

G&G agreed to shape the hill. It will then be seeded, with the hopes it will be ready for use this winter, Plummer said.

Officials think the hill could become popular. Plummer said some of the neighers were excited to hear about it.

“We see some kids back here at Lucerne on the hill – that’s fine – but we don’t have any really dedicated place to do that,” Plummer said.

On another matter, the board heard a request from Steve Lockridge about having a chess and checker board table somewhere in the park system.

Lockridge said he was willing to begin a  fundraising effort to pay for the table and the board indicated its willingness to consider the matter in the future.