BY LEM O’NEAL
USA Pickleball Association Ambassador
Pickleball has established itself as the fastest growing sport, which can be enjoyed as a means of fun exercise by multiple generations of Los Alamos residents. It is not a fad, as Lifetime Fitness has committed to having 600 courts in 2023. Lifetime Fitness has partnered with Major League Pickleball (MLP) and Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating (DUPR) with a goal to increase the current 5 million players to 40 million by 2030.
Recreational facilities in Los Alamos designed and suitable for pickleball do not exist. Shared use of tennis courts for pickleball are not a long-term solution for multiple reasons, lack of ball retention being number one.
A dedicated pickleball facility allows players on one court to play and practice using multiple practice balls without disturbing play on adjacent courts.
Facilities with lights, wind, sun and snow protection do not exist in Los Alamos. There is no place the public can go during the evening hours, heat of the day, or when it is raining or snowing to play this fun sport for exercise. A cover over the facility increases utilization and decreases maintenance. The additional capital cost for the cover has been proven to be justified. Opelika Pickleball is leading the country with its innovative 12 court covered tournament class facility. It was so successful it built a second identical facility after its initial success.
It would be very cost effective to cover Pinon Park and convert it to an 8-court dedicated pickleball tournament class facility. This facility would be able to be utilized by local residents as well as for tournament play. It simply positions Los Alamos for the future needs of the residents for recreational facilities in evening and other weather limiting times.
Los Alamos can’t convert Pinon to pickleball without first building a tennis tournament facility. Pickleball can provide the natural progression of learning for our youth needed to play competitive tennis.
As for the rest of the existing smaller unlighted geographically separated facilities, these can continue to be used by the local residents adjacent to them as always. Double lining some of these for pickleball and tennis, if requested by the residents using these facilities could be economical but only has limited benefits to the greater community. If the county doesn’t have maintenance budgets for these facilities then local users could be empowered to keep them free of debris, melting snow, and standing water to increase the life of the new surfacing the county has in motion. Cracks in the new surfaces should be addressed by warranty if the courts are maintained.
So why does Los Alamos need tournament Tennis and Pickleball facilities? The answer is for the residents’ health and wellness.