SUMMERVILLE — City council has accepted a private donation of $100,000 to convert two tennis courts at Laurel Street Park into four pickleball courts.
Bill Nisson, a new Summerville resident, is the man behind the donation. Previously identified only as an anonymous donor, Nisson spoke at an Oct. 13 city council meeting, stating that he had donated the funds and expressing his goal for Summerville to fund at least four pickleball courts.
“(Pickleball) brings people together a lot. It’s not as hard to play as tennis, not as physically demanding,” Nisson said during the meeting. “For Summerville, it seems like it would suit the city a little better.”
There are two pickleball courts at Doty Park.
Pickleball has grown in popularity. But the donation offer became the focus of an August council meeting, sparking a debate among tennis and pickleball players over who is more deserving of courts in Summerville Parks in Summerville.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the consideration of this giveaway has turned into what I believe is a false choice between pickleball and tennis,” said councilman Bill McIntosh.
The council accepted the donation on Nov. 10, but only on the condition that its parks and recreation department come up with a proposal outlining where and how to replace the tennis courts with two new ones at another site, whether at Doty Park, Azalea Park or elsewhere – which was an amendment made by McIntosh.
McIntosh said he didn’t want to see Summerville lose two tennis courts. He suggested that the council find money in the budget this year or next to pay for the new courts.
McIntosh said Nisson coming to council with a proposed gift to the city quickly caught their attention.
“We don’t have people coming to us on a regular basis offering to make contributions to the city, let alone six figures,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh admitted while he understood there was a demand to add more pickleball courts, some Summerville residents — including himself — were initially hesitant to give in.
“I think the concern was that maybe it’s a fad, and maybe it will die out,” McIntosh said. “But there is absolutely no doubt that there is a current demand to expand pickleball into downtown Summerville.”
Amy Evans, director of parks and recreation, said there is no timetable yet for the replacement of the tennis courts, as the final design of the pickleball courts is still being determined. She told the Post and Courier that she thinks the addition of pickleball courts is ultimately a good thing because many players already frequent Summerville’s few courts.
“If the sun is shining, you can find people on the Doty Park pickleball courts pretty much any morning or afternoon,” Evans wrote in an email.