The Town of Hutchinson plans to convert a set of deteriorating tennis courts in Rice Park to designated pickleball courts.
Parks Director Jason Combs said they hope the playing surfaces will be ready by spring.
Pickleball is a paddleball sport played by two or four players using solid wood paddles and a perforated polymer ball, much like a wiffle ball, hitting it over a net.
Local pickleball lawyer Don Beydler, who, along with a group of local players, has been pushing for months for designated pitches, said there were 70 to 100 people who regularly played the sport in Hutchinson.
The game has a different and smaller court layout than tennis, and the temporary lines set by players on the tennis courts in Fairgrounds Park continue to be pulled by tennis players. There were also conflicts over the times available to play.
“There are three existing courts (at Rice Park) that are really rough and not suitable for tennis,” Comb said. “The idea is to go in and cut out the asphalt slab and pour new concrete for a playing surface for the pickleball courts.”
The advantage of doing this, Combs said, is that much of the expensive infrastructure for the courts, including lighting and fencing, is already in place.
“What is missing here is a concrete playing surface and that will allow us to do that relatively inexpensively,” he said. “There will always be asphalt between the concrete slabs.”
There is room for eight pickleball courts in the three tennis courts, but plans are to build only four and leave the remaining court for tennis.
“We’re still kind of working on reducing all costs internally, so that we can put together a better budget and a better schedule,” Combs said. “The goal is to make it playable by spring 2021.”
Combs said they are asking Pickleball players to contribute to the costs of the project, although he does not have a specific figure on those costs.
Beydler told Hutchinson City Council last week that he was asked to raise $ 10,000, which the organization agreed to attempt to raise if it could be guaranteed six courts.
He said they received pledges of around $ 3,000 in just 24 hours and it was possible to raise more, but they needed to see the design plans first to show the people. potential donors and that they were frustrated with the inability to obtain these plans.
Current plans, however, said Combs, are for just four courts, although more may be added over time. He told council that initial cost estimates were around $ 3,000 per court.
“It was not a budgeted project, so we are working outside of the typical budgeting process,” Combs said. He told the board that it had been difficult to write a design as the plans and scope of the project kept changing.
“We are trying to involve more people than two people,” he said. “We spoke with Hutch Rec, which is the key to programming. And there are a few other players that we want to reach. We’re trying to get consensus, not just one or two person’s requests.
Meanwhile, city officials are scrambling to find places to play the Pickleballers. They were hoping to allow them to use Memorial Hall during the winter, but there are conflicts with the Hutchinson Recreation and Boys and Girls Club programs.
“We hope that after the first of the year Memorial Hall will be available several times in the evening,” Combs said.