Those looking to play the Bainbridge-born sport of pickleball on its home turf will soon have at least six new courts.
With the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District’s recently accepting an engineering quote for the proposed construction of six new courts at Battle Point Park, officials said groundbreaking for the complex could take place as soon as August.
“That is a very tentative date,” explained Park Services Division Director Dan Hamlin.
“We’ve got to get the civil work done. We’ll go meet with the city and make sure that we’ve crossed every T and dotted every I with our permit requirements so that we can submit for bids,” Hamlin said. “And if we get those bids in and the total project cost falls within the range the board’s comfortable with then we can at that point decide — and hopefully that’s at the end of July — that the project’s going forward and we would set that date firmly.”
Expressed interest in additional spots to play the increasingly popular sport has been growing since 2012, said Hamlin, who has been acting as a kind of liaison between the park district’s board and an activist organization of about 80 local pickleball players looking to get more courts constructed.
“Probably about 2012 is when pickleball got re-energized here on the island … it’s just exploded in popularity,” he said. “It’s real fun to watch them out there playing; people of all ages playing together. It’s been quite interesting to watch, it’s probably one of the fastest growing trends that I’ve seen.”
Recently the park district accepted a quote from Browne Wheeler Engineering, following a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) related to civil engineering services for the proposed courts, which are slated to be constructed adjacent to the existing tennis courts at Battle Point Park, and similarly uncovered.
Hamlin said the tennis courts will be unaffected by the project.
The expected cost of the courts was almost twice the original $10,000 limit previously suggested by district staff, but officials decided to move forward and the district accepted the bid.
“The stormwater requirements are much more stringent than they were a few years ago, and so the requirements to get an engineered stormwater plan, the amount of work it takes to get that done, is much more than it used to be to meet code and to make sure they’ve checked every box,” Hamlin said.
“And so the price was higher than we’d estimated just based on the work we’d done in the past. It wasn’t that the work was higher [in cost], it was just higher than we expected from our past solicitation for that type of work.”
Ultimately, Hamlin said the project was moving forward and “going as well as we can hope for that this point.”
“At that last meeting we were just updating the board that our civil engineer had come through, we’ve gone through our RFQ process and selected Browne Wheeler [Engineering], and they’d given us their proposal and their proposal included all the way through construction which was not in our original estimate either,” he said. “The support from the pickleball group, folks that have been involved with it have been really good to work with, very patient and understanding of the process, and very helpful, as well.”
Pickleball is a paddle sport (similar to a racket sport) that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a Wiffle Ball, over a net.
The sport shares features of other racket sports, the dimensions and layout of a badminton court, and a net and rules somewhat similar to tennis, with several modifications.
Though first designed by islanders Barney McCallum, Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell in the ’60s as a children’s sport, it has reportedly become “one of America’s most popular growing sports among all ages.”
The construction of new courts at Battle Point Park is only one of the recent pickleball revelations set to take place this year.
A special pickleball tournament will be held in August, presented by the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum as one of their major fundraisers for 2019.
The tourney is expected to draw participants from across the Pacific Northwest, the museum’s executive director Brianna Kosowitz said earlier this year.
“It is long overdue for our community to offer a tournament,” she said. “After all, this is where the sport was invented in the summer of 1965, by three enterprising individuals: Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum.
“Joel and Bill have passed but Barney is still a very important part of this community and we look forward to working with him and the local pickleball group as the tournament takes shape,” she added.
To honor the three inventors, Kosowitz said the tournament will be called the Bainbridge Island Founders Tournament. It will be sanctioned by the National Pickleball Association and held at Bainbridge High School, where six tennis courts will be temporarily re-striped to create 18 pickleball courts.
Kosowitz also noted that in conjunction with the tournament, the museum will be assembling an educational display about the history of the game. She asked any islanders to call 206-842-2773 if they have interesting early items to loan or donate for the exhibit (old paddles, photographs, etc.).
In addition to the tournament, the museum will be organizing free beginners’ clinics at the courts on Aug. 22 so more people of all ages can learn and appreciate the game.
Additionally, the museum will be offering tours to “Court No. 1,” the former badminton court at Pleasant Beach where the very first pickleball game was played.
Visit www.pickleballtourn aments.com or www.bainbridge history.org to learn more.