Pickleball Courts Long Term Planning – SF-TAPP

Sites on the roadmap – Longer term plans.

Check out the 2023 PB growth curve.  It’s a hot sport right now and shows no signs of cooling off. It’s no secret that both Tennis and PB players really dislike dual-lined courts and have worse apoplexy whenever court space is taken away to provide for one sport over the other.  What’s the path forward?  Simple – more courts everywhere for everyone.  That’s the pipe dream anyway.

The SF Pickleball Community has been advocating many years with RPD for additional court facilities.  We could borrow a page from the RPD playbook and claim that we’ve grown the number of courts “seven-fold, bringing the number of courts from just 12 in 2018 to nearly 90 places to play today” within the City (which includes indoor Rec Center gyms).

But let’s stick to the relevant facts and state that even the 62 outdoor courts that are “dual-lined” are not an accurate portrayal of actual availability.  Access hours are always limited on dual-lined courts and you can often wind up toting a 30+ pound net bag from your car and back.  Volunteers to set up and take down portable nets during scheduled play windows have been organized, but volunteers and coordinators burn out and it’s not sustainable.  Venues with lockboxes for nets offer convenience, but unlocking, assembling, disassembling, then relocking is tedious for players and boxes are often left open to theft.  Venues with rolling nets actually improve access enormously, but do come with roll-off storage location challenges, safety and vandalism concerns.

We say “painting 20’ x 44’ court lines with no net is not a real PB court” and that count is about 43 courts of the 62 total.

Let’s face it, we need more dedicated permanent-net courts or at least, like Presidio Wall, venues with dedicated rolling-net courts.  But Pickleball in the City only has 33 courts under this definition, and given the waiting queues during most open play hours at all our hub locations, more are needed right here in SF.

Pickleball nationally has joined the major recreational sports category along with soccer, tennis, baseball and basketball. And it’s post-pandemic growth trajectory is like no other sport as evidenced below.

SOURCE ARTICLE:  Sportico.com

But how do you go about allocating space for permanent net courts in a congested, expensive city like SF?  The approach RPD is taking to move beyond their now-obsolete dual-lining policy and also to end the “moratorium on sport-court conversions” edict they issued a year ago, is to convene a Tennis-Pickleball Planning Roundtable (SF-TAPP) to better address increased demand and improve access to quality courts for both racket sports.  The group will include leadership from both tennis and pickleball communities chartered to look at public space opportunities that can accommodate court venues.

SF-TAPP hopes to identify additional under-utilized spaces both in and outside of the city’s park system to build an inventory of dedicated pickleball spaces that can be proposed for public or commercial development with special focus on locations that mitigate PB facility user conflict with the tennis community and nearby neighbors.  Think reservoir tops, decommissioned industrial parking lots or obsolete port facilities.  When finished, SF-TAPP will submit the recommendations to the Recreation and Parks Commission for approval.

But this is a City that’s not exactly known for speedy implementation of even the most elegant of plans.  Financing will eventually become a  major hurdle once potential site recommendations are given the “green light” and a level of sponsorship is found to make it feel like a viable project.  We’ve come a long way from chalking lines on underutilized blacktop spaces, so there’s no doubt further progress will occur.  The sport is just too much fun and offers too many social benefits.

So stay tuned, patiently, and get involved in helping our advocacy work if you’re so inclined.  Just drop us a line at pickleballsf@gmail.com.  Keep on dinking.