Pickleball enthusiast Wally Hamer approached Gearhart City Council last Wednesday, with a letter seeking more courts for an increasing demand.
“We are hoping to add two more courts to the Gearhart facility so we would have a total of four courts,” Hamer said after the meeting.
Pickleball, similar to tennis, is an 11-point game and described as a cross between ping-pong and tennis, first came before the council when Hamer approached the City Council in May with proposed alterations to Gearhart’s two existing tennis courts in order to create space for pickleball without disruption to tennis players.
In 2019, the city converted one of the city’s two full-time tennis courts into part-time pickleball courts using rolling nets and striping.
The game has skyrocketed in popularity since then.
“During the time period of March 2021 and to October 2021 we have seen a considerable uptick in the amount of people that are playing pickleball on the Gearhart courts,” Hamer said. “Yes, some of those are people vacationing in Gearhart and are looking for a place to play. Most of the people that play are from this community and the surrounding communities, such as Astoria, Cannon Beach and Seaside. We are in need of adding two more courts so people get a chance to play.”
Some days over the summer, there were as many as 40 people at the courts, Hamer said. “We only have two courts and since only eight people at a time can play we had 32 people sitting out.”
Hamer asked the city to add two more courts to the Gearhart courts. “We figured out how we could get four courts on the west side of the tennis courts,” he said. “We would not be eliminating any tennis as tennis on the east side would continue.”
He said pickleball and tennis provide social, emotional and physical benefits.
New nets are needed, as the existing pickleball net system has fallen apart, Hamer said. “I know money can be tight and I know the city has other priorities but there is a real need for this type of exercise and there are a lot of people who play. We want to work in harmony with the city of Gearhart in the coming months to see if we can figure out a way to make this happen.”
Councilors said plans for more pickleball courts should wait until completion of the parks master plan.
The plan, designed to look 20 years into the future, was developed after the state awarded the city $15,000 grant funds for the project, part of the 2019 local government grant program from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
Council members suggested a regional approach to future pickleball play. Indoor pickleball is available in Seaside through the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District year-round on Mondays and Thursdays from 9 to 11 a.m. There are additional courts at Camp Rilea, Nehalem and Long Beach, Washington.
Councilor Kerry Smith said land owned by the Seaside School District on North Holladay designated for recreation could provide an option. “I wonder if there is any way they can contact the school district, because I know they’re keeping the second field for their athletes,” Smith said. “Why can’t they approach them and say about turning those tennis courts that are really in need of some work but very well give them eight courts — which would be 64 people playing pickleball.”
Council members tabled the motion until after the parks master plan is complete, likely in a “couple of months,” Cockrum said. “I think that makes a lot of sense.”