In communities large and small across America, the debate involving tennis and pickleball has grown increasingly loud. But in the city of Santa Monica, the noise (not the noise of pickleball itself) between the two factions grows even more acrimonious as city leaders, including city council members, are in bed with the pickleball contingent. . It becomes a story of concession after concession given to a gang of merry torch-bearing clowns who are on a mission to disrupt the already existing tennis infrastructure in our seaside community for their own benefit.
Perhaps the main flaw in what happened on the Santa Monica tennis courts is that there was no strategic plan to assess the situation with input from all stakeholders, set goals and goals (short and long term), execute an agreement during deployment, and possibly provide an evaluation of the results. In the words of Indiana Jones, the city “just inventing [they] go along.” The lack of planning, accountability, transparency, misinformation, public disclosure, communication with all stakeholders, pickleball bias and discrimination against tennis is mind boggling in a city that sees himself as progressive.
The pickleball situation in Santa Monica is unique among all recreational sports in Santa Monica in that a private group, the Santa Monica Pickleball Club (SMPC), has essentially been given the keys to the city and is unilaterally determining how to operate the city. and their program on the city’s tennis courts. The city allowed them to institute a “reserved open play” system at Memorial Park in which players – not only from Santa Monica but from all other regions and municipalities – can show up on the courts and can play for free as long that they choose. It’s no wonder that every weekend morning or weeknight, hundreds of players show up on the courts to play. I understand that SMPC asks people to donate and become members; however, the city has no records of the fees people pay or, more importantly, where they come from. Compare that to tennis where there is a shortage of courts and city dwellers have to buy a reservation card and hope they can schedule an hour of court time for a fee at just two locations. It’s akin to the difference between an open bar and a cash bar at a social event – people are much more likely to indulge in more capacity when something is free rather than having to dig into their own pockets for each drink. The city has created a group of “Pickleball Crashers” whose intention is to have fun while disrupting the entire tennis ecosystem and the community at large in Santa Monica.
Another major question is how and when did the SMPC obtain the license to use the Memorial Park courts and what public notices or hearings were instituted in order to take these steps? Didn’t the city realize that by allowing SMPC – unlike any other city entity – to unilaterally decide how many participants (obviously unlimited) can play and how much they will pay to the courts (nothing) that the end result would be a group of reigning players constantly clamoring for more space on the tennis courts? Perhaps a group like the United States Tennis Association (USTA, the national governing body for tennis) in Southern California would have made a bigger bid for a permit allowing “restricted open play” for an unlimited number of young tennis players in the city. . You would also think that a group of people so determined to grow their game in the city might have a plan to include youth involvement, but at this point their intentions only include the instant gratification of their players, not the game as a whole.
There was no method to this madness. Just recently, City Councilor Lana Negrete pushed through a request that was added to the City Council agenda for its meeting scheduled for October 25, but there was no public notice of the meeting, which would include ‘public input’, up to just five days before. the meeting. And while the city reached out to the SMPC, which represents all of the city’s pickleball stakeholders, they failed to reach the group most affected by pickleball concessions – the card bearing the tennis players who struggle to find a court for a sport they have been playing for many years. Since Council was unable to move forward on the recommendations put forward by Councilor Negrete, the decision was made to add the item to the agenda scheduled for another meeting on November 1, but this time without public comment. Following the first meeting, Councilwoman Negrete posted on the SMPC Facebook page her gratitude to the “PB family” and her thanks for “engaging them” and for “the countless hours and meetings to find a solution. fair” while “working with the tennis community.” (And again, the city only sent notices to its authorized organizations and individuals, including the SMPC, excluding the thousands of tennis players To say that the tennis community participated in these behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations between the City and SMPC is simply absurd! than to recuse himself from any official action taken because of pickleball – highlights the overall lack of any process in place to assess, plan, execute and evaluate the heated debate before moving ahead of any action that will have, and has ever had, u n major impact on the tennis community in Santa Monica.
As Council Member Negrete pointed out in her application, there are short-term and long-term issues that need to be addressed in Santa Monica. There is, however, an immediate sense of urgency for the development of a strategy that will allow pickleball to grow and evolve in the city, but not at the expense of tennis. It is imperative that the city moves to bring together a working group so that ideas can be shared and solutions can be found before the situation becomes even more adversarial and before further actions are taken. It is also imperative that the entire tennis community be made aware of any public hearings scheduled to discuss such a contentious issue in the community. If corrective action is not taken soon, I fear that a community fracas will ensue and cast a negative light on the whole community. I must also remind everyone that this issue should be a dialogue rather than a debate.
In the short term, it must be remembered that there was a shortage of tennis courts in Santa Monica even before the rise of pickleball during the pandemic, and that making reservations at some courts was difficult even for card-carrying residents. from the city. Now not only has the city reduced the land available to appease pickleball, but it allows hundreds of non-residents to use your facilities at no cost and no revenue to the city. Pickleball doesn’t have to be played on tennis courts; the fact that four pickleball courts fit on a single tennis court shows that a lot of space and equipment is not needed to play the game. In fact, why have local physical education programs started adding pickleball at their activities? That’s because it doesn’t require a lot of space to play and it doesn’t need to be on a tennis court! Rather than removing tennis from Memorial Park and giving pickleball its space (believe me, in three months they will be clamoring for more space), in the meantime consider using the open air space in every elementary and middle school, in addition to providing access to pickleball in the city’s large beach parking lots. By establishing a reservation and fee card system for both individuals and tennis, the city can increase revenue that can more than pay for the cost of nets, lines and portable lights. It’s pickleball that needs to find a home or homes, not tennis. Need I remind everyone that when the Dodgers first moved to Los Angeles, they agreed to play at the Memorial Coliseum for four seasons, despite its obvious baseball disadvantages, in anticipation of their new home at the Dodger Stadium?
The pickleball and tennis communities agree that pickleball courts should be part of all city plans for the design and development of new recreational facilities within the proposed airport open space. And in this regard, the city has a head start because a large plot of land is available! Across the country, the USTA has been working on this issue and has various plans (i.e. this is an incredible opportunity for Santa Monica to be at the forefront of pickleball integration and the growth of the pickleball that flows into the fabric of the city The issue would certainly be the prohibitive cost of such a project, but I would say there are individuals and businesses who would love the opportunity to be a part of something bigger. “as innovative and necessary. We’ve all heard that athletes like LeBron James and Tom Brady, among others, are investing in professional pickleball franchises, which does nothing to grow the game. I would suggest that a fundraising campaign of the City of Santa Monica to athletes, artists, organizations and businesses could have a huge impact in meeting the growing demand for land, increasing opportunities for the sport’s growth and putting the city on the map. r the front of the stage. national map as a hub for pickleball.
But none of this can happen if the City of Santa Monica continues its established pattern of lack of planning, accountability, transparency, misinformation, public disclosure, communication with all stakeholders, bias towards pickleball and discrimination against tennis while conducting its business behind closed doors. . The pickleball problem is a huge challenge for the city, but it’s an even bigger opportunity to create a legacy for Santa Monica in many ways. But not at the expense of tennis.
Santa Monica, California