New pickleball courts part of proposed 2021 budget

·2 min read

Pickleball players in Merritt may soon have a designated facility, after making use of the shared multi-use sports box in Central Park since it was officially opened in 2015.

In Sept. of 2020, the Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD) officially approved a request to allocate $130,000 to the City of Merritt to fund the construction of four new pickleball courts. The $130,000 was granted from the federal gas tax funds, via the discretionary funds of Director Laird and Director Graham of Areas ‘M’ and ‘N’.

At the time, an appropriate location for the courts had not been determined. However, at the Committee of the Whole budget meeting which took place Jan. 29, Sky McKeown, Manager of Recreation and Facilities, presented to council a plan to modify the Lawn Bowling Centre, enabling the construction of pickleball courts.

“The Lawn Bowling greens are 120’ x 120’, we are proposing that we leave a 30’ x 120’, and this is in communication with the lawn bowling players, that would still allow them to have three lanes that would be maintained by the Parks Department,” explained McKeown.

“And we would go with a 90’ x 120’ which would be for pickleball courts, on proper asphalt courts with all of the painting done, the fencing in between all the different courts as well, and factored into that there’s some landscaping, there’s some irrigation that would have to be rerouted and redesigned.”

Councillor White questioned what would then be done with the multi-use sports box, with McKeown assuring it would be left as is and should Merritt host a pickleball tournament, the box could still be used for “overflow games”. McKeown did note, however, that while the multi-use sports box had served the purpose of the players it was not an ideal playing surface.

“They’re cement, not asphalt, and they’re not painted courts they’re painted lines, so the traction is less than desirable for sure,” said McKeown.

Councillor Fehr expressed support for the project, as the pickleball players have long been searching for a permanent location for their courts, and the Lawn Bowling Centre has been “under-utilized” in recent years,

According to the budget, the City of Merritt would have to contribute $26,000 for a total project cost of $156,000.

Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald